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Police identify remaining 7 victims in deadly Bronx apartment fire

Image: Fire Department of New York (FDNY) personnel work on the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York
Fire Department of New York personnel work on the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York City, Dec. 29, 2017.EDUARDO MUNOZ / Reuters

New York City police on Saturday released the names of seven more victims killed in a fast-moving fire in the Bronx that killed 12 people, including a 7-month-old baby and a teenage girl.

Killed in Thursday’s fire were 7-month-old Amora Batiz; Gabriel Yaw Sarkookie, 48; Emmanuel Mensah, 28; Justice Opoku, 54; Solomon Donkor, 49; William Donkor; and 17-year-old Hannah Donkor, police said Saturday.

Shantay Young, 19; Karen Francis, 37; Kylie Francis, 2; Charmela Francis, 7; and Maria Batiz, 58, had previously been identified as among the dead.

The fire that broke out in a first-floor apartment just before 7 p.m. on Thursday was caused by a toddler playing with the burners on a stove, the city’s fire commissioner said. Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was the worst fire tragedy in the city in a quarter-century.

The fleeing family left the door open and the flames moved through the 5-story building “like a chimney” and trapped those above, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Friday.

Maria Batiz' brother was among those grieving the loss. He said her baby granddaughter also died, but the child's mother survived. "I didn't believe it," Fernando Batiz said told NBC New York. "I had to come down here and see for myself."

"The smoke, I guess, overcame her," he said, according to the Associated Press. "Everything happened so quick."

Mensah was a soldier who was last seen heading back into the fire to try and help others, NBC New York reported. After he couldn't be found, family members told the station they were hoping he was among those injured in the fire.

Fire Department of New York (FDNY) personnel works on the scene of an apartment fire in the Bronx on Dec. 29, 2017.KENA BETANCUR / AFP - Getty Images

Temperatures were in the teens as 170 firefighters battled the blaze, with wind making it feel like single digits. The weather was so cold some firefighters were instructed to huddle with their crews to keep warm. The firefighters union said dozens of people were saved due to firefighters' quick actions.

The boy who caused the fire, 3, has a "history of playing with the burners and turning them on," Nigro said. Before his mother knew it, he said, "this fire had gotten a good hold of the kitchen."

The 26-unit apartment building was required to have self-closing doors, which swing shut on their own to keep fires from spreading, city Housing Preservation and Development Department spokesman Matthew Creegan said. Investigators will look at whether the door to the apartment was defective or if an obstruction prevented it from closing, he said.

De Blasio, the mayor, said there was "nothing problematic about the building that contributed to this tragedy."

Excluding 9/11, Thursday's fire was the city's deadliest since 87 people were killed at a social club in the same Bronx neighborhood in 1990, the Associated Press reported. A fire in a home in another part of the Bronx killed 10 people, including nine children, in 2007.