NEW YORK – Two teenage brothers and their 7-year-old nephew were killed in an apartment fire that authorities believe may have been sparked by a stove left on for three days — a custom observed during Passover in some Orthodox Jewish (search) communities.
The victims of Monday's blaze were brothers Shyia Matyas, 15, and Yidel Matyas, 13, along with their nephew Shlomi Falkowitz, 7.
The parents of the older boys — Shlomi's grandparents — managed to escape.
"There are no words to describe," said Isaac Abraham, a community representative. "Children usually bury parents; parents don't bury children."
Fire Department spokesman Paul Iannizzotto said officials were investigating whether the stove was left on since Friday due to the observance of the Sabbath and the first two days of Passover (search), which began Saturday night. Observant Jews are forbidden to light fires or turn on lights during holy days.
The older boys were the sons of Symah Matyas (search), a locally prominent chef. The youngest victim of the fire in Brooklyn's Williamsburg section was Matyas's grandson, Abraham said.
Abraham said one of the victims recently had his bar mitzvah (search), and that the boys were "happy, well-educated, with a bright future in life."
Matyas's 21-year-old daughter, who was recently engaged, was hospitalized for minor injuries after jumping from a second floor window to escape the flames. Another daughter escaped the building through the front door, Abraham said.
Five other people were taken to a hospital after suffering smoke inhalation, and two firefighters were treated for minor injuries. Abraham called Matyas and his wife "exceptional individuals," and said they were recovering from their own injuries while dealing with their loss.
Abraham said the community was upset firefighters took almost four minutes to arrive.
"I can walk slowly from the firehouse to the scene of the fire and get there in under a minute and a half," Abraham said.
Iannizzotto said there were no delays and that response time was better than the average of four minutes and 18 seconds.