Mother, 2 children killed in Hillendale apartment fire

Posted at 11:14 PM, Aug 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-20 23:14:15-04

A fire at the Hillendale Gardens apartment complex took the lives of 3 residents Sunday, according to firefighters.

Investigators said 26-year-old Bra Angah-McCray, 4-year-old Aimee McCray, and 3-year-old Adriel McCray were unconscious when discovered of the bedroom of their home.

"It's sad. It's real messed up because no one deserves to go out like that," said Manuel Palacios, who lived below the family.

Palacios says the neighborhood is like a big family.

"That lady was very nice. Her kids, they used to play with my dog because they're little. My dogs are still little too," he recalls, "but then all of the sudden they're gone."

Firefighters said the kitchen of the home caught fire around 4:30 in the morning, likely by accident. Palacios says he was woken up by police officers banging on his door, not by a smoke alarm.

"They didn't go off at all. I don't know why, because the whole room was filled with smoke," he said. "I feel like if the police officers didn't come in time, we would have all been in there. Everybody was asleep."

Investigators didn't know for sure if working smoke alarms were inside the building at the time of the fire.

Neighbor Brooks Osman said there was so much smoke that he thought his own building down the street was the one on fire. He brought flowers to a makeshift memorial being put together for the victims.

"They saw the children being run down in stretchers and paramedics just pumping their hearts. I can't imagine," he said.

The 3 victims were transported to area hospitals, where they were pronounced dead. Investigators said one firefighter suffered non-threatening smoke inhalation.

16 people, including Palacios, were displaced due to smoke and water damage. He's staying with neighbors and getting help from the Red Cross, but his heart is with the family from upstairs.

"My prayers go out to their family, for real," he said. "I hope they're OK and that they get through it."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to firefighters.