Fourteen-year-old Donte Benamon said he tried to save his little brother in an apartment fire on Chicago's West Side Friday night, but couldn’t.
“I tried to go back in there and get him but I didn’t know what room he was in,” Benamon said. “It was a lot of smoke, it was all in the back.”
When firefighters arrived on the scene, the back porches were fully involved in both occupied buildings.
Firefighters had to rescue two of Benamon’s young siblings and an adult relative, according to fire media affairs.
“All of us were sleeping, but my little brother got up before us,” Benamon said. “This was the third time he had been playing with the stove, I guess he was playing with the stove like he always do.”
Benamon managed to crawl out of the smoke-filled building unharmed.
But 3-year-old Jaantwiaon Edwards did not survive the blaze and was pronounced dead at Loretto Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
“When I rushed to the crib the smoke blew me back out,” Benamon said.
His other young brother, who neighbors and family say has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk, remained in critical condition Saturday at Loyola University Medical Center.
Telvin Wilkins was walking in the neighborhood and tried to help rescue the young boys.
“We ran around back and the whole back was in flames,” he said. “I heard the baby in there.”
The fire spread to an adjacent apartment building, forcing some of the residents to flee from the homes into the cold and leaving roughly 20 residents displaced.
The boys’ mother, Lakisha Jonson, was not home at the time of the fire but said her mother was visiting from Rockford and was in the home when the fire was sparked.
She was transported to West Suburban Hospital where officials say she is in stable condition.
“I got a call that both buildings were on fire and my mama, they had to break the windows to get to her,” Johnson said.
A police officer with asthma was also treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.
Benamon returned to the charred apartment building Saturday morning looking for anything he could salvage. A folder and a pair of gym shoes was all he carried out.
Firefighters were seen canvassing the area Saturday, delivering smoke detectors door-to-door.
“Anytime children pass its hard on the neighborhood and family,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
Officials said Saturday evening that the cause of the fire was still under investigation, but that it did not appear to be a criminal act.