ST. ALBANS — Two young brothers screamed for help as flames sparked by an unattended candle trapped them in their St. Albans home, eventually killing them Monday night, witnesses and officials said.
Six-year-old Andrew Kavanagh and his 11-year-old brother, John, had been home alone at 188-15 Tioga Drive, which had no smoke detectors, about 7:20 p.m. when a candle near a sofa on the first floor started a fire that quickly raged out of control, NYPD and FDNY officials said.
"There were two kids inside screaming, 'Help, help, help!' Flames were all over the windows and through the doors. They were very high and orange," said neighbor Alain Palmer, 25.
The boys may have been in a small play area on the first floor when the blaze erupted and then tried to flee upstairs before they were overwhelmed, sources said. One was found unconscious on the stairwell between the first and second floors and the other on the second-floor landing, sources said.
Firefighters pulled the boys from the scorched home and desperately tried to resuscitate them with CPR, but eventually handed their bodies off to ambulance crews, witnesses and officials said.
An NYPD spokeswoman did not know where the boys' parents were at the time of the fire. It also wasn't clear who lit the candle.
There had been no arrests as of Tuesday afternoon, but police said their investigation was ongoing.
Orlanzo Saunders, 33, who lives on the floor above the boys, had just stepped out of the shower when the blaze began, he said.
"I smelled the smoke and tried to go down to see what it was. I thought maybe it was a toaster. Then all the smoke just came up and I ran back up and panicked," Saunders said.
"I said, 'I ain't going down like this.' I broke out the window with my hand, then dropped onto the roof."
Once on the ground, he and another neighbor tried to get back into the building to save the boys, he said.
"Me and a neighbor tried to kick the door back in, but the fire was too much."
He was treated at Queens Hospital for his injuries, including cuts to his hand from the window's broken glass, he and officials said.
John and Andrew were good-natured boyd who loved playing with their family's pet dog, neighbors and relatives said.
"[John] was very protective of his brother. They were very friendly. They loved life," said Moise Lidecana, 66, who said he was a cousin of the boys' mother. "It's just a tragedy. I'm devastated. I never thought it'd happen to my family."
"They were good kids," Saunders said. "I've seen them grow up. [John] was more quiet. They played a lot with their little dog, Lala. They just played video games and watched TV."
FDNY Comissioner Daniel Nigro said the boy's tragic death again emphasized the need for working smoke detectors and other fire safety measures.
"Parents who are living in a home with children and do not have smoke detectors, I'm not sure how they look at themselves in the mirror each day — how dangerous that is," he said.