WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — Two more boys have died following a West Humboldt Park apartment fire Saturday where a 4-year-old boy also died, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
Jayden Cruz, 6, and Angel Rodriguez, 11, were hospitalized in critical condition following the weekend fire and died of their injuries Monday, officials confirmed. Axel Cruz, 4, died early Sunday morning, according to Chicago Fire Department officials.
A fourth child also was hospitalized in critical condition. No updates on their condition were available Monday.
The deadly blaze occurred in a garden apartment in the 4000 block of West Potomac Avenue just before midnight Saturday, fire department officials said.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, two adults were outside and heavy smoke was emanating from the bottom floor of the three-flat, fire department deputy district chief Walter Schroeder said.
Firefighters pulled four children ages 4 to 11 from the burning building before performing CPR on them in the parkway lawn outside the apartment building, Schroeder said.
Crews entered from the side of the building and broke basement windows to help remove the children from the apartment, Schroeder said. All four kids were in full cardiac arrest, Schroeder said.
All victims suffered from smoke inhalation. Axel was pronounced dead early Sunday, while the other three children were intubated, officials said.
The adults, a 40-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man, were in good condition, officials said.
“This was a tragic, and most unfortunate situation which has been overwhelmingly sad and distressful to me, my staff, the family’s local neighbors, and the residents of the 37th Ward,” Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said in a written statement. “We offer our deepest sympathies and prayers to all.”
The fire was contained to the bottom floor of the building, officials said. The basement apartment was badly damaged, while the two upstairs apartments experienced minor smoke damage, they said.
Schroeder said a door in the back of the apartment was the only exit from the basement, other than the front door of the building, located on the above floor.
The fire department is investigating the cause of the fire. Mitts said she’s been in contact with Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt and Mayor’s Office officials about the fire.
Local leaders held a vigil near the scene of the fire Monday afternoon as word spread about Jayden and Angel. Neighbors Larry Walker and Dorothy Walton led the group in a prayer.
“This is a tragedy for our community right now,” said Pastor Venus Jackson of the Nobel Neighbors community organization. “This is way past heartbreaking.”
Maura Madden, who runs Children’s Garden of Hope on the same block, said the four kids played with Maura for hours the day of the fire. They splashed the sprinkler with Madden and ran through the water as she tended to the garden, she said.
Stuffed animals, balloons, candles and posters were set up as a memorial outside the garden Monday.
“They were angels. They are angels,” Madden said. “This is a tragedy and we are all so shaken up about it. And we now have little angels looking over our garden. They were little, well-behaved, beautiful children. God bless them.”
“I’m just so grateful that their last day spent was in a playful manner right here on the park that they loved so well,” Mitts said of the children. “We can’t bring them back, but we can support each other and make sure that we do all we can so that this does not occur again.”
Freelance reporter Noah Asimow contributed.
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