DALLAS — Three children were trapped in their Southeast Dallas apartment by an intense fire Sunday morning.
Two of those children, five-year-old Nathaniel Jimenez and his four-year-old sister Natalie, died.
Neighbors held a solemn candlelit ceremony Sunday night and left stuffed animals outside the family’s burned-out apartment. They said it was a gesture to show the family that they do not have to grieve alone.
The words are so hard to find, and only one readily comes to mind.
"It's a sad thing," said neighbor Kuwana Blair. "Sad, she lost two of her babies. It’s sad."
Witnesses said Nathaniel, Natalie and a two-year-old sister were trapped in a bathroom when the fire broke out.
Cell phone video shows flames burning out of control as Good Samaritans tried in vain to put it out with hand-held fire extinguishers, knowing children were inside.
"All of a sudden, we heard a big boom," said neighbor Troy Randle.
Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said the first units to arrive at the Casa Flores development at 2612 Highland Road encountered flames coming from the second-floor apartment at 9:15 a.m.
Nathaniel and Natalie’s two younger siblings escaped with minor injuries. Nathaniel was pronounced dead at the scene; Natalie was taken to the hospital, but was removed from life support Sunday afternoon.
Their mother survived, but remained hospitalized in intensive care Sunday night with burns covering 35 percent of her body.
On Sunday night, people prayed for her to gain the strength to recover physically and endure emotionally.
"She has to live," said neighbor Erika Lopez. "She has to live because she has two more children. And she has to thank God that those two are still here."
Another mom clutched her own three children also offering words of comfort. "I hope they see that they have a lot of people here that are here for them. If they need anything, we are here."
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Evans reminds Dallas residents to test smoke alarms and to have a family escape plan. Free smoke alarms are available to Dallas residents by calling 311.