Furious residents at a Bronx housing project where a 6-year-old boy died in a fire said the trash compactor where the blaze started had been broken for at least two months.
Firefighters found young Aiden Hayward and his 32-year-old father unconscious in a hallway on the 19th floor of 303 East 135th St. in NYCHA’s Mitchel Houses Friday evening.
Aiden was taken to Harlem Hospital, but could not be saved. The boy, the second child to die in a fire in the five boroughs in the last week, died of smoke inhalation. His father, also suffering smoke inhalation, was clinging to life at the same hospital Saturday, police sources said.
Carmelo Rivera, 72, was visiting his son on the 20th floor of the building at the time of the fire, trapping them both inside the apartment.
He blamed the broken trash compactor — which appeared to have been somehow ripped out of the wall, leaving an uncovered open space in the hallway — for the fire.
“There was so much smoke,” Rivera told The Post. “The only way to breathe was sticking the face out the window… The whole apartment was full with smoke. We ran to the back room and opened the window to breathe. We closed the door behind….you couldn’t see nothing.”
Alberto Revilla, 38, who also lives on the 20th floor was overcome with tears Saturday because his 2 1/2-year-old mixed Maltese, Loki Revilla, also died in the fire after succumbing to the smoke.
“On the 20th floor, the compactor has been basically ripped out for months,” Revilla told The Post. “My neighbors and I have been complaining about it and putting in tickets and nobody has fixed it. The fire started in the compactor. Most of the floors didn’t get damaged because they were closed.”
Had NYCHA repaired the issue with the compactor, “there wouldn’t have been that much smoke and my dog would have still being alive. Why does everybody has to wait until the bad things happen in order for somebody to take action?”
Firefighters got the call at 5:17pm and were at the scene of the blaze at 5:22pm, according to both the FDNY and the NYPD.
FDNY officials said that the fire trucks that responded to the scene were fully staffed, insisting there were no issues with understaffing despite the controversy over recent vaccine mandates that have led some firefighters to call in sick — and caused 26 fire companies to temporarily shutter last week.
More than 100 firefighters were at the scene and it took them about two hours to get the blaze under control.
Eight other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and two firefighters were left with minor injuries, the FDNY said.
Rivera also complained about the broken trash compactor — part of which he said had been taken off leaving a hole where someone could have thrown a lit match or a cigarette that might have ignited.
“The elevators are the same thing.,” Rivera said., “They are waiting for someone to die in the elevator before they fix it the right way.”
The cause of the blaze was still under investigation Saturday.
A NYCHA spokeswoman said the fatal fire was under “active investigation,” adding “We will work with this family to make sure that they get the services that they need during this very difficult time.”
Additional reporting by Melissa Klein, Rich Calder and Steven Vago
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