‘An unspeakable tragedy’: Death toll in five-alarm Bronx fire drops by two as community grieves

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Mayor Eric Adams and city officials in front of the Twin Parks North West tower on Jan. 10, 2022.
Photo by Dean Moses

The city’s Medical Examiner lowered the death toll in Sunday’s devastating five-alarm Bronx blaze by two victims, from 19 to 17, Mayor Eric Adams said Monday.

Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro explained that the change was the result of a “double count” of victims at the Twin Parks North West blaze, but even the reduced casualty list offers little consolation. 

“Patients were taken to seven different hospitals. There was a bit of a double count, and I guess it’s a bit of good news that the number isn’t 19 but 17. But don’t forget there are many people fighting for their lives in the hospital, who were transported. So, this number could, unfortunately, increase again. So, our prayers are with them,” Nigro said during a press conference on Jan. 10. 

Among the fire’s casualties were eight children and nine adults, which Nigro said was caused by a faulty electric heater. But it was the heavy smoke that the fire produced, spread through an open door, that contributed to the high number of casualties.

Although the building was developed in 1972, each of the apartment doors were supposed to have a self-closing function, but the FDNY is investigating why the doors were not operating correctly, causing the smoke from the fire to spread rapidly throughout the 19 floors. 

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Adams along with FDNY, EMS, NYPD, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Congressman Ritchie Torres, and others gathered outside of Folin Street and East 181st Street to provide a brief update on yesterday’s devastating fire. 

“This is really an evolving crisis, and so as it evolves and as we get new information,” Mayor Adams said. “I said this yesterday and we will continue to say this is an unspeakable tragedy.”

Prior to the briefing, Adams met with Schools Chancellor David C. Banks to offer condolences and support to every educational facility in the area where the children who perished in the Bronx fire attended. 

Firefighters watch elected officials speak.Photo by Dean Moses
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.Photo by Dean Moses
Mayor Eric Adams speaks at the Dec. 10 press conference with Congressman Ritchie Torres, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, Schools Chancellor David Banks and others looking on.Photo by Dean Moses

“We sat down with the principal and the teachers and just wanted to have a private moment to let them know that we are here to support them as they go through this tragedy. They share just personal notes of these children,” Adams said. “It was something that we heard universally about each child that we lost is how much they smiled, how much they brought life to the school. Not only did this fire leave a burning pain in the hearts of people in this community, but it left a burning pain in the children, in the teachers, in the faculty of this school,” Adams said sadly. 

Chancellor Banks also shared his heartfelt condolences for the children who died in the fire and stated that their visit consisted of four schools—two traditional public schools and two charter schools. Each member of the school faculty they spoke to told personal accounts of how wonderful these children were, and while they were very young, they were full of so much life, compassion, and curiosity. 

“My heart broke as we heard just about how passionate each young person was and how they came to life for us. One teacher read a letter that he had just gotten a few days ago, and it was just heartbreaking. I sent out a letter to every school principal and educator across the city this morning, asking that we all take time to reflect on this tragedy. But also to make sure that we are providing opportunities to talk about fire and safety during this winter season,” Banks said. 

Adams also underscored that the fire has had a global effect since the building contained a diverse community of immigrants residing from Gambia, the Dominican Republic, and other areas. Also present was the Gambian ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Omar Faye. He describes his Gambia as a small, tight-niched community of less than two million people. 

“Everybody knows everybody, and our country is currently in a state of shock,” Faye said, who added that the President of Gambia, Adama Barrow, has extended his condolences to the families of those impacted by the fire. 

Adams, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, and other elected officials assured that resources will be made available to these families and all those who have been traumatized by this tragedy. From Governor Kathy Hochul setting aside money in the state budget to the Mayor’s Fund dedicating 100$ of their donations to those displaced by the fire, each political leader vowed to not uplift the Bronx community in mourning. 

“We’re going to get through this moment and we’re going to get through it together. And this tragedy is not going to define us,” Adams said. “It is going to show our resiliency as we help the families through this.” 

Displaced families have been sheltered in four hotels as of Sunday night.