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3 young brothers die in Bronx fire
00:51 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

"I couldn't get them out," says neighbor -- "I tried"

"This account had substantial arrears," says ConEd spokesman

The brothers were ages 5, 2 and 4 months

New York CNN  — 

A fire that swept through a Bronx apartment killing three young brothers was caused by a candle and occurred one day after the power company cut off electricity for unpaid bills, officials said Saturday.

A neighbor said she was in her apartment in the building on West 165th Street – half a mile from Yankee Stadium – when she heard the boys’ mother, Tashika Turner, screaming “Fire!”

“She was yelling out the window,” Cynthia Woods told CNN affiliate NY1. “She saw me and said, ‘Fire!’ So I ran upstairs to the apartment and I kicked the door open.

“I tried to go in and get the kids, because I could hear the kids hollering. But the fire was like real heavy, so I fell, and I couldn’t get into the house to save the kids … And I couldn’t get them. I couldn’t get the kids out. I heard them crying, and they were burning. I couldn’t get them. I couldn’t get them out. I tried.”

Woods said she kicked the door so hard she fell back. When she finally forced it open, “the fire came out – and all I could hear is them hollering. And I tried to go in, but I couldn’t go in. There was so much smoke and fire. It was a big flame. The whole front, the kitchen, everything was on fire.”

It took about 100 firefighters about 90 minutes to bring the two-alarm fire under control by 9:30 p.m. Friday in the six-story building, officials said.

By then, it was too late.

The boys – Elijah Artis, 5; Jeremiah Artis, 2; and Michael Turner, 4 months – were declared dead on arrival at Lincoln Medical Center, police said.

Hospital spokeswoman Nydia Negron said two children – sisters ages 4 and 4 months – were in stable condition in the intensive care unit; the mother was treated and released. Their mother – whom Negron identified as Tashika Turner – survived, too.

Fire marshals have determined the fire was accidentally “caused by a candle in the kitchen,” FDNY spokesman Daniel Glover said.

Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury explained that the apartment’s residents owed “a significant amount … – well into the thousands of dollars.”

“We try to avoid turning service off to customers,” Drury added. “We’ll put them on payment plans to work with them to avoid turnoff, but this account had substantial arrears.”

The fire occurred 180 feet from 1022 Woodycrest Avenue, a four-story building that caught fire in March 2007 when a space heater cord overheated, killing 10 people, nine of them children.

At the time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it the worst fire in New York City since the Happy Land social club – also in the Bronx – went up in flames in 1990, killing 87 people.

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This story was reported by Laura Ly in New York and reported and written by Tom Watkins in Atlanta; CNN’s Angela Johnson contributed to this report.