updated 3/10/2005 11:51:10 AM ET 2005-03-10T16:51:10

Eleven members of a family died Thursday when a mattress caught fire in their apartment and got stuck in the front door as they tried to drag it out, blocking the main means of escape, authorities said.

The victims ranged in age from 6 months to 42 years, police said. Four members of the family managed to get out — some apparently by jumping out a second-story window, police said.

Little was immediately known about the family because they had moved into the apartment the day before, Sheriff Harry Lee said.

Police said the family was using candles for light or heat because their electricity had not yet been turned on. After the mattress caught fire, some members tried to haul it outside, Lee said.

“The mattress got jammed in the door so the mattress actually blocked the only means of escape,” he said.

It appeared that some of the victims died of smoke inhalation and some of burns, Mark Goldman of the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office said. Autopsies were planned.

The four survivors were apparently not seriously injured. They were taken to the sheriff’s office for questioning.

The apartment, in a lower-to-middle-class neighborhood across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, was totally aflame when rescue workers arrived shortly after 5 a.m.

David Jarriet, a neighbor who went outside to get his paper, had called 911. “I heard windows popping,” he said. “I saw flames. They were rolling.”

The building was owned by Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy Ernest Pierre, who said he did not know why 15 people were in the apartment. He said he had rented it to a woman who said she would be living there with her daughter and the daughter’s three children.

There was some confusion about why electric power was off. Pierre said the renter apparently had service turned off so the account could be shifted to her name.

The burned building was faced with siding. Part of the second-story wall appeared to have been blown out or knocked in, and was covered with soot.

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