The death toll was lowered from 19 to 17 Monday in New York City's deadliest fire in more than 30 years—but with some survivors fighting for their lives in city hospitals, officials warn that the toll could rise again. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Monday that the toll was lowered because there was a "bit of a double count" after the Sunday fire in the Bronx. Some 13 survivors were still in critical condition Monday, per the New York Times. One survivor, Fatima Wood, says she might not have been able to get her family out of the building without the help of a stranger who saw her struggling, NBC New York reports.
Wood says Mohamed Keita, a neighbor she had never met before, saw her at a ninth floor stairwell after she had brought her children through smoke-filled hallways. She says he asked if she needed help and then carried her 3-year-old daughter Kween to safety and got her medical attention. With help from firefighters, Wood managed to make it out of the 19-story building with another daughter. "I was just trying to do the right thing. Everybody was struggling, lots of people lost their lives," Keita says. The young girl was treated in St. Barnabas hospital and was released later Sunday.
Officials said Monday that eight children are among the dead, including a 4-year-old, the AP reports. New York City Mayor Eric Adams called it an "unspeakable tragedy" but added: "This tragedy is not going to define us. It is going to show our resiliency." He said firefighters continued rescuing people from the smoke-filled 19-story building even after their air supplies ran low. "Their oxygen tanks were empty, and they still pushed through the smoke." Investigators say smoke filled the building after a malfunctioning space heater started the fire and a door failed to close. Adams said Monday that the building has self-closing doors and investigators are trying to determine whether a maintenance issue was involved. (Read more New York City stories.)