Four-year-old Elijah loved Honey Buns. His 8-year-old brother Andre wanted to play ball. Nakiya, at 11, was "so smart." And 6-year-old Brooklyn was a princess, according to their older sister -- who was the only one not there to die in the Harlem blaze with her entire family.
"It’s just unbelievable. It’s unbearable. It’s indescribable," a stunned Raven Reyes said at a vigil for the victims Wednesday night.
Authorities have said the flames that broke out in a fifth-floor apartment kitchen at the Frederick E. Samuel Apartments on Seventh Avenue hours earlier were so intense Reyes' family didn’t have enough time to get out.
Her mother, 45-year-old Andrea Pollidore and four young siblings, along with 32-year-old family friend Mac, all perished in the blaze.
A source close to the probe tells News 4 investigators found a burner in the "on" position, adding that family members told investigators Pollidore would disconnect her smoke alarm when cooking. Investigators were still searching for a disconnected smoke alarm as of late Wednesday afternoon.
NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia said records indicate that combination fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors were installed in the 62-unit building in June 2017 and tested in January 2019.
Wednesday’s deadly fire wasn’t the first brush-up Pollidore, a mother of eight, had with flames. Family members said she survived two previous fires in different homes.
The Harlem blaze was one of the deadliest New York City fires in years. In 2017, one in the Bronx, sparked by a toddler playing with a stove, killed a dozen people.
Ten years earlier, 10 people died -- nine of them children -- in a four-story house fire in the Bronx. Excluding the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2017 fire was the city's deadliest since 1990, when 87 people were killed at a social club fire in another part of the borough.
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to show that Mac was a family friend, not a stepson, according to Kendra Pollidore-Mulzac.