Image: Fire wreckage
This photo released by the New York City Fire Department shows one of the burned floors at 1022 Woodycrest Ave., the building where nine children and an adult died Thursday in the city's deadliest fire since 1990 in the Bronx neighborhood of New York.
updated 3/10/2007 2:20:08 PM ET 2007-03-10T19:20:08

A 7-year-old girl died after a two-day battle for her life, becoming the 10th victim of a devastating fire that claimed the lives of eight other children and one adult , a family spokesman said Saturday.

Asimi Soumare became the fourth child in her family to die in the blaze that also killed her mother, said a family spokesman, Sheikh Moussa Drammeh. Mamadou Soumare, a cabbie who received a frantic call from his doomed wife Fatoumata on the night of the fire, has now lost his spouse and all of their children.

Word of the Friday night fatality at Lincoln Hospital came just two days before Monday’s funeral of the other nine victims of the blaze—three of Asimi’s siblings, her mother and five cousins. The other five children belonged to the Magassa family, which shared the three-story brick home with the Soumares.

The girl’s death was attributed to complications due to smoke inhalation, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city medical examiner. The blaze was New York City’s deadliest since 1990’s Happy Land fire that killed 87 people in the Bronx.

‘I wanted to help them’
One of Moussa Magassa’s surviving children told the New York Post that he escaped the fire by jumping out a window, but he was unable to offer any assistance to those trapped inside the home.

“I wanted to help them, but there was too much smoke. I didn’t know if they were out already,” the 15-year-old said in an account reported Saturday.

His father flew home Friday to tragedy, but also to emotional and financial support from a closely knit community of Malian immigrants. Many turned out for a prayer service Friday and collected more than $21,000 to help the families, said Cheick Sidi Diarra, Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations.

A taxi driver group was also collecting donations, and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner volunteered to cover the cost of the funerals. The blaze occurred just blocks from Yankee Stadium.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city had also offered financial and other assistance to the families. Magassa and Mamadou Soumare met with Bloomberg and Abdoulaye Diop, Mali’s ambassador to the United States, for the prayer service Friday.

‘A great American tragedy’
Like many immigrants, Magassa and Soumare “came to the United States to pursue the great American dream,” Bloomberg said after their meeting. “And (they) now find themselves sharing a great American tragedy with us.”

A funeral for all nine victims was set for Monday in the Bronx. The five victims from the Magassa family will be buried in New Jersey on Monday, while the Soumares will be flown to Mali for burial.

Because the victims were Muslim, the bodies must be buried according to Islamic funeral traditions. The body is supposed to be laid to rest with the face pointing toward the Islamic holy city of Mecca. If local laws require a casket, Muslims may use one, though many would prefer to bury the body without a casket.

Magassa declined to speak with the media after Friday’s service, although he lingered to speak with several Muslim clerics. One of them, Sheik Moussa Drammeh, said Magassa’s faith was sustaining him through the nightmarish days.

As Magassa left the mosque, he was swarmed by reporters and sped away in a car without talking.

Twenty-two relatives, including 17 children, lived in the three-story brick home where the fire was ignited by a space heater in the basement. The fast-moving blaze trapped its victims on the upper floors, and some children were thrown to rescuers through broken glass in upstairs windows.

Soumare, after a frantic cell phone call from his wife as he drove a cab through Harlem, had watched helplessly from the street as the flames consumed his family, killing his spouse and three children. Magassa got word of the heartbreaking blaze while still in Africa.

Three victims remain hospitalized
Three members of the families remained in hospitals Saturday with injuries from the blaze. A 6-year-old girl remained in critical condition Saturday at Jacobi Medical Center.

The condition of a 5-year-old girl was stable at Lincoln Hospital, where a 24-year-old woman were also listed in stable condition.

The exact relationship between Moussa Magassa and Mamadou Soumare was not clear. Relatives and neighbors have said they were half-brothers, while others said they were friends but considered themselves spiritual brothers. Magassa had two wives in the home.

Neighbors and family members described an idyllic life at the house, which was a focal point for the city’s Malian community. The young cousins were often seen playing together in the yard or in the street outside their home in the Highbridge section of the Bronx.

Earlier Friday, a single candle flickered on the stone stairs outside the front door of the burned-out home — a remnant of an impromptu Thursday night vigil. The family van, debris across its roof, was still parked in the driveway. A makeshift memorial of flowers, notes and stuffed animals had appeared near the corner bodega.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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