FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A deadly apartment fire in Ft. Lauderdale claimed the life of a young girl.
The fire broke out just before midnight in the apartment at 1045 NE 8th Avenue.
The girl’s mother ran outside, screaming for someone to save her daughter – 6-year-old Kaileen Alveranga who was still inside. Three other children who were also in the apartment managed to get out.
William Dunmoor, a neighbor, ran inside to get the girl, but was overcome by smoke and not able to locate her.
“It was great smoke and a lot of flames five minutes after the fire was going on. I ran inside two times to save the kid but her momma didn’t tell me where the kid was at. I couldn’t see anything,” he said. “The other three was already out and the stepdad and the mom were already here.”
Shawn Kochlany told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that he used his iPhone to record video of firefighters at the scene and also tried to save the child.
“I was one of the first people in with a fire extinguisher and I was told, ‘if you stayed there, you would have died,'” he said. “The fire was up to the 2nd floor and there was no fire alarm. I will not forget people screaming. It was just a horrible, horrible site and a horrible, horrible thing, the loss of a 6-year-old girl this way.”
Kaileen’s father Leo Sears, who lives in Boynton Beach, drove down when he heard about the fire. He wants answers.
“She was bright, smart, beautiful, a bright future, a very intelligent little girl,” he said, “It is very sad it had to come down to this.”
Sears said he was with Kaileen until about 5 p.m. Sunday when her mother came and picked her up.
“We’re devastated. I can’t even think of what to say now that my daughter is dead,” said Sears. “They told me they located her inside a room dead. She was laying in bed.”
After leaving the scene, Sears returned in the afternoon and told D’Oench, ” I feel more could have been done. All the kids were sleeping in one bunk bed and all the kids got out except her.”
Sears revealed that he was in a court battle with Kaileen’s mother and was trying to get custody of Kaileen and another child.
CBS4 reached out to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to see if the child’s family had a history with the agency.
DCF responded late Monday with the following statement from Secretary Mike Carroll:
“We are absolutely devastated by the loss of Kaileen and are grieving with her loved ones and the community,” the statement read. “The Broward Sheriff’s Office has an open child death investigation into the circumstances that lead to this tragedy and we will assist in any way we can.”
CBS4 also reached out to the Broward Sheriff’s Office to find out if BSO or its child protective services investigators had ever been to the child’s apartment but have yet to hear back.
Neighbor’s say the mother had only lived there between 2 and 3 weeks and said she may have panicked.
Neighbor Robin Brockman said, “I saw smoke billowing from the apartment and I know there was panic and screaming. I think the mother got confused and there was panic and she was terrified. You had to hear it and see it. There was screaming. I heard blood-curdling screams from her.”
“We’re just trying to get closure right now, find out what happened. We have no answers,” he added.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Fort Lauderdale Police are investigating the child’s death and are waiting for a report from the Medical Examiner’s Office. Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue and the State Fire Marshal are probing the cause of the blaze, which is not known at this point.
Sears said his daughter died from smoke inhalation but that has not been confirmed.