Midwood came out en masse on Thursday to mourn the death of an 8-year-old boy with “a pure holy soul,” killed after a vicious fire ravaged the top floor of a three-story home on Avenue P.
Fire officials said the three-alarm fire near E. 12th Street broke out around 9:30 pm the night before, as some family members were inside the candlelit home and some were eating outside, observing the last night of the holiday of Sukkot, a seven-day festival where Jews eat in booths to mark their 40 years in desert exile after escaping Egypt.
Witnesses said parents Jacob and Hannah Krasny were outside when they heard their children’s screams pierce the evening calm.
“They were in the sukkah — they didn’t even know at first,” said Mordi Sadaka, 12, an area resident.
The father reportedly tried to pull his six children out two at a time. The mother soothed her terrified kids, holding the hand of her youngest, repeating, “Mommy’s here with you.”
But no one could reach young Avigdor, who was trapped in his third-floor bedroom. The boy was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital at approximately midnight.
A day after the fire, children’s bicycles littered the front yard, the frame of a baby stroller sat cockeyed near rain-soaked trash. The sick smell of smoke lingered heavy in the humid air.
“This takes away the whole pleasure of the holiday,” said neighbor Ben Kohen.
As neighbors gathered, workers covered the gaping hole torn into the side of the home by firefighters the night before.
Those who knew the family said they generally kept to themselves.
“They were very quiet,” said Mayer Sakkal, who lives across the street. “It’s a real shame. This doesn’t happen around here.”
Thirteen-year-old Esther Sadaka described Avigdor as “very sweet and kind of shy.”
Five other children, ranging from 1 to 10 years old, were injured in the blaze. A 1-year-old girl was in critical condition at Staten Island University Hospital North, and four others — a 3-year-old boy, a 5-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 10-year-old boy — were in stable condition at the same hospital.
At press time, the cause of the fire was still unknown, though a fire official at the scene said the blaze started in the kitchen, and speculated that a “blech” — a hotplate used by observant Jews so as not to violate the prohibition of cooking during the Sabbath or certain holidays — may have been the root of the tragedy.
Roughly 20 people were in the house at the time of the fire, which was occupied by two separate families. Neighbors said the Krasnys lived on the third floor, a day care center operated from the basement ofthe property, and a rabbi also maintained a room in the home.
Members of the family who lived below the Krasnys refused to discuss the fire.
“What else can be added to the story?” a woman asked.
Two festive holidays directly follow Sukkot: Shemini Atzeret, which translates to “the eighth day of assembly,” and Simchat Torah, a celebration marking the completion of the yearly cycle of Torah readings.
But there was no joy on Avenue P, where Jews from around the world — including Iran, Egypt, and Europe — live.
“It’s a Jewish family. It’s a sad thing for all of us,” said one resident who didn’t give his name.