BRONX — A weakened valve on an aging radiator caused the “freak accident” that tragically killed two infant sisters in a city-funded apartment for homeless families, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Investigative sources explained that the valve gave way when the heat came on in the first-floor apartment where 1-year-old Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose were napping near the radiator inside 720 Hunts Point Ave. Wednesday afternoon.
Sources said the valve was weakened under normal wear and tear and that it suddenly uncoupled under normal pressure when the heat was turned on, pumping scalding steam into the room.
“There was no explosion and there was no extraordinary pressure put on the radiator than what was done every day when the heat came on,” one well-placed source familiar with the investigation said. “It basically could have happened anywhere at any time.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio described the tragedy as a “freak accident” — but declined to describe what occurred — adding the deaths were not related to any of the violations or maintenance issues at the building, where the city was renting five apartments at above market rates to house homeless families.
However, the tragedy has raised policy questions about why the city pays to put homeless people inside buildings with violations.
The apartment was one of five cluster apartments rented out by the city through the Bushwick Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that has previously been investigated for poorly maintained shelter housing.
On Thursday, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the children and determined that the girls died of extreme overheating and thermal injuries due to exposure to hot steam.