Two Little Girls Die From Exploding Radiator, Critics Blame City For Substandard Housing

Two sleeping sisters died Wednesday after sustaining severe burns from a faulty radiator in their apartment in New York, New York Times is reporting.

Ibanez Ambrose, 2, and Scylee Ambrose, 1, were found unconscious in a temporary housing apartment for homeless people in the South Bronx. When emergency responders arrived at the first-floor residence, they could not revive the girls. The girls were taken to Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center.

It was there they were certified dead.

The building where the unfortunate incident occurred is used by the City of New York to provide shelter for homeless people. The initiative is part of a cluster-site program meant to provide short-term shelter in privately owned buildings.

The project has been roundly condemned as ineffective, expensive, and unsafe because of the poorly maintained buildings. Fire Department officials, in a report, cited the malfunctioning of a radiator in the building. According to them, an exploding valve caused steam to disgorge into the room where the girls were sleeping. Peter Ambrose, father of the girls, blamed the poorly maintained building for the death of his two daughters.

“It’s not fair. They were the most beautiful babies in the world. The radiator blew up. The steam killed my babies. It was New York public housing.”

Gilberto Lorenzo, who stays on the second floor of the building, revealed that he knew something strange was going on when his dog began to bark. The 24-year-old said he came out and saw the parents run out of the apartment, carrying their children. He said the mother laid one of the children on the ground and was administering CPR before paramedics and firefighters arrived on the scene.

“She never barks the way she did. And I heard this screaming…the only thing I could see was they were purple and white. They weren’t moving at all.”

Neighbor Maritza Morales confirmed that the little girls were sleeping in the bedroom and that the door was shut. According to her, their father was asleep in the other room. It was their mother, Danielle Ambrose, who arrived home and tried to check on the girls and saw the room choking with steam. Morales said the family had endured difficult times and were looking forward to a happy holiday season for their kids.

“They had two beautiful baby girls. They’re both homeless and out of work. They’ve been here about a year and two months. She plays guitar and make ends meet. Lately, she’s been playing so they can have a nice Christmas, now they won’t have any Christmas at all.”

A March 2015 report from the city’s Investigation Department revealed that many cluster-site buildings were in violation of building and fire safety regulations. The New York building where the girls died had 26 violations which included multiple-dwelling laws and housing-maintenance code. However, there were no recent complaints about the particular apartment where the girls died. The last one was over a heating problem in 2002.

Steven Banks, the commissioner of social services, and Mayor Bill de Blasio had vowed to stop cluster-site housing, citing the high costs and terrible conditions that people were living in. However, the phase-out has been difficult, because the program is benefiting 3,000 families.

The plan of Mr. Banks was to convert all cluster sites to affordable housing units available for low-income residents. The procedure has been frustratingly slow with elected officials and community leaders annoyed that the city was relying too much on hotels as shelters for the homeless.

The commissioner for social services has continually stressed the risks with cluster sites. After the incident, officials said they would remove four homeless families from the building where the Ambrose girls died. Letitia James, a public advocate, reacting to the Wednesday incident, blamed the city for continually putting homeless families in houses that were obviously below par.

“It’s unforgiveable that the city continues to enter into contracts with providers who do not ensure that these apartments are habitable. And today, we witnessed the lethal consequences of this neglect.”

[Featured Image by Fasphotographic/iStockPhoto]