UPDATE: Family, friends remember the 2 children killed in 4-alarm Manchester fire
MANCHESTER — Fire crews were called to the scene of 198 Wilson St. in Manchester at about 5 a.m. Monday.
“One of them is my son. The 8-year-old is my son,” said Jay Smith, who said he is the father of one of the four victims whose lives were claimed by the fire.
Smith had his worst fear realized when his son, 8-year-old Jay Michael, was unable to escape after flames broke out. Neighbors said they knew the victims - a family unit comprised of two adults and two children ages 8 and 10 - very well.
"We see them on a daily basis," said Amanda Gagne, who lives in the building that caught fire. "Their kids play with my kids. The boys were just in my house yesterday."
Investigators are trying to put the pieces together after fire companies were on scene all morning. Reports of heavy smoke and flames erupting from the back porch of the second floor caused the two buildings filled with families to be evacuated. Crews confirmed four people died from the blaze.
The two boys were brothers, Jay Michael, 8, and Joshua, 10.
Family, neighbors and on-lookers were beside themselves when they learned of their deaths.
“He was just lifeless,” said witness David Holliday, who saw one of the boys removed from the apartment.
“They eventually put him on the gurney and wheeled him in front of us and into the ambulance," Holliday said. "It didn’t look like there was any life in him. Then they wheeled another kid on a gurney out from the club which I hear passed away."
Witnesses said the images of Monday’s fire will stick with them forever.
“To see that child like that, I’ll never forget that," Holliday said. "That’s a horrible thing that happened to them and their family,”
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Even more troubling, it’s still unclear whether or not the smoke alarms were fully functioning.
“Oh, they are in there, but they don’t work,” Gagne said of the smoke alarms. “They didn’t go off. The carbon monoxide [detector] didn’t go off, either. We used to cook and they would go off, and now they didn’t go off during a fire."
The Roca program is attended by a lot of children in the Wilson Street neighborhood.
“It’s crazy to know some of the kids friends were involved, and I see a little boy get dragged out,” said Tanya Polar, a mother of four whose children attend the Roca program with the two boys.
They are all dealing with the loss of their friends. The program plans to have a celebration of life ceremony for the boys later on this week.