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An unfathomable and absolutely horrific tragedy struck the Flatbush Jewish community over Shabbos, when seven children in one family were R”L killed in a fire.

Fire officials say that the fire tore through their Brooklyn home after they had gone to bed, a tragedy that authorities believe was caused by a malfunctioning hot plate left on for Shabbos.

The blaze took the lives of three girls and four boys – ages 5 to 16 – and left their mother and another child in critical condition. Fire officials said the flames would have prevented the mother, who escaped out a window, from trying to rescue her children. The mother and daughter and in need Rachmei Shomayim and their names for Tehillim are Gila bas Tziporah and Tziporah bas Gila.

20150321175627“This is an unbelievable tragedy,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said after touring the charred residence. “Every New Yorker is feeling this pain right now.”

Fire investigators believe a hot plate left on a kitchen counter ignited the flames that raced up the stairs, trapping the children in their second-floor rear bedrooms, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Nigro called it the city’s worst fatal fire in recent memory.

“It’s a tragedy for this family, it’s a tragedy for this community, it’s a tragedy for the city,” he said.

Police officials identified the victims as members of the Sassoon family. Three of the children were girls: Eliane, 16, Rivkah, 11 and Sara, 6. Four were boys: David, 12, Yeshua, 10, Moshe, 8 and Yaakob, 5.

20150321181248Nigro said authorities believe the father was away at a conference at the time of the fire. Neither his name nor those of the survivors were released.

The fire broke out shortly after midnight while the children were asleep in five bedrooms in the rear of the home in Midwood, a tree-lined section of Brooklyn known for its low crime and close-knit Orthodox Jewish population.

Karen Rosenblatt, who lives nearby, said she called 911 after being awoken by her husband Andrew when he saw flames and smoke bellowing from the home. The husband said also he heard “what seemed like a young girl scream, ‘Help me! Help me!'”

Firefighters arrived less than four minutes after the 911 call to find the mother, badly burned and distraught, outside and pleading for help. When they broke in the door, firefighters encountered a hopeless situation — a raging fire that had already spread through the kitchen, dining room, common hall, stairway leading upstairs and the rear bedrooms.

“Unfortunately, the outcome may have been determined before they arrived,” Nigro said.

After making their way through intense smoke and heat, firefighters found the young victims motionless in three of the four bedrooms in the home, officials said.

“It’s difficult to find one child in a room during a search,” Nigro said. “To find a houseful of seven children that can’t be revived …”

Karen Rosenblatt described hearing windows breaking before seeing firefighters throwing mattresses out of a back window.

Fire investigators found a smoke detector in the basement of the home. But none were found elsewhere in the house, Nigro said, adding, “To hear a smoke detector two floors below is asking a lot.”

Misaskim worked through the night to ensure proper Kavod Hameisim, and were greatly assisted by the NYC Medical Examiner, the NYPD and the FDNY. The Levaya details were not yet available.

20150321181248 (1)By Saturday afternoon, the fire department had set up a table on the corner of the block and distributed pamphlets reminding residents they should have smoke detectors.

Many other neighbors who spoke to reporters declined to give their names, but expressed sorrow over the loss.

The last residential blaze with a similar death toll happened in 2007, when eight children and an adult were killed in a fire in a 100-year-old building in the Bronx where several African immigrant families lived. Fire officials said an overheated space heater cord sparked that blaze.


54 Responses

  1. Terrible horrendous tragedy. This wasnt a family tragedy. Any Jew who feels any kind of connection to Am Yisrael must feel the pain. There are no words….Baruch Dayan Haemes.

  2. Baruch Dayan Emes

    I was in tears reading about this.
    People please make sure you have multiple smoke alarms in your house and that they all work. Please let’s never have another tragedy like this again

  3. Hashem yishmor! All of Hashem’s ways are just!! We can’t possibly understand how this tragedy was for the best, but take comfort from knowing that it was. Hashem is our Loving Father and, as hard as it is to swallow this pill, this too is part of His Divine Plan.

    HaMakom Yinachem…
    We should only share in good news! Amen.

  4. According to Rambam (Hil. Taanis 1:1-3), it is a positive commandment of the Torah for every individual to cry out and search his ways at a time of national calamity, for G-d visits calamities upon Israel to inspire each Jew to repent for his misdeeds. If someone fails to recognize that tragedies occur through an act of G-d rather [than] through happenstance, he is considered cruel, because he will not be motivated to improve his behavior. as a result, G-d will beset Israel with more troubles, until all are motivated to change their ways.(from Sefer Yehoshua by Artscroll)

  5. Does anyone remember the tragedy that took place a few years ago when six members of the fogel family were massacred as they slept? That was also friday night of parshas vayikra. As it was pointed out then,i would like to point out now. They were obviously karbanos taken for some reason and we are meant to wake up from this tragedy.

  6. Shlomo Hamelech was instructive in telling us והחי יתן אל לבו. When we are ch”v beset with a tragedy, we are to take this as a message to do a reckoning. For one person, it may mean to be more careful with Shabbos, for another lashon horah, for another giving tzedokoh, etc. With the exception of Gedolei Yisroel who have the Ruach Hakodesh to know what is occurring in the heavenly Spheres, who might be able to give a universal message of guidance to the entire generation, we are unable to make statements about why this happened or what it means. It would be nice for everyone to engage in some soul searching. I find comments that suggest specifics about HKBH’s cheshbonos offensive, arrogant, and ill targeted. I welcome the direction of Gedolei Yisroel on this.

    May Hashem protect us from tragedy and any other mishaps. May we all be zocheh to have Yomim Tovim where we can all be together and full of simcha.

  7. Many years ago I wanted to replace my BroilKing hot plate because the enamel top was chipped and bubbled. I went to many stores in Boro Park and Flatbush and no one carried Broil King, only some heimish imports which were not ul approved. I asked the proprietors why they were selling electric products that were not ul approved and they just shrugged. Eventually I found a replacement Broil King on 18th Avenue. Our community must demand that the housewares stores remove these weak hotplates from their shelves at once. My friend Ella threw hers out after the cord started melting. Thank g-d she saw this before a disaster happened to her.

  8. to everyone,

    the message i take out of this is clear

    have working smoke detectors

    u’shmartem meod l’nafshoseichem is also a mitzvah btw

  9. and for everyone out there. those israeli platas retrofitted (improperly) for the US should be avoided at all costs. At best they get way too hot.

  10. The Shabbos plattas important from China a rubbish and fire in the making. Reason being poor quality electrics, not up to ul standards, putting them on a wooden work top could start a fire alone; since they are not high enough off the counter to cool the heat generated to the counter.Should have some kind of cut out or sensor under the platter is the temperature gets too hig; even before a fire.THE CHINESE don’t care on the quality. We need a good American quality brand for Shabbos not the rubbish fromchina

  11. Can you please clarify the names?
    I’ve seen it written as gila b’ tzipporah
    And also as avigail b’ Tzipporah.
    Is it Gila or Avigail?

  12. This is definitely a message from Hashem. May the sutvivors be able to cpntinue their lives and the family and all yhe friends, of the adults and especially the kids, find Trahamu min hashamyim.

    We must do our part to not unnecessarily risk our lives and the lives of our families.

    1: Install working Smoke detectors on Every Floor.

    2: Change batteries every time we change the clocks.

    3: Buy and set up timeclocks with the sufficient wattage capacity attached to any heat producimg appliance so it is never on when unnattended, especially when we sleep.

    4: Have at least 1 fire extinguisher in the kitchen, if possible on every floor. Make sure everyone knows how to use it.

    5: Immediately discard and replace any heating appliance that is beginning to mslfunctin in any way, especiall hot cords or plugs.

    Some of the above I myself will beli neder implement myself. Hashem Yishmerenu.

  13. After i read this, the first thing i want to lekabel al atsmi bli neder: less internet-moré Torah!!!
    Come on!!!
    Lets all of us receive something upon us… THE best IS the midot…
    Rahamane liba bae…

  14. Now would be a good time to remind everyone that many household cleaners people use to clean for Pesach are caustic and can cause severe burns. My niece spent a Pesach in Staten Island burn center because of these cleaners. My son does appliance repairs the most common call he gets before Pesach is people literally taking apart their ovens, especially the door and can’t put it back properly.

  15. many CITIES have local laws requiring UL (or comparable labs) approval on anything sold in their municipalities. i’ll bet that NYC also has such an ordinance. check it out. It must be enforced!

  16. #22
    we cant chas vesholom blame this mother for having the malfunctioned smoke detectors. Even if we know how crucial they are. this was a woman living alone with all these children and no husband. she had to prepare shabbos, pesach is coming and had to be tending to all her kids needs; that a lot. Im sure had she had some yishuv hadaas she wouldve changed the batteries…. And most of all, hkb”h is the manhig haolam. If he wills something, it’s going to happen. May hkb’h comfort all the mourners of klal yisroel!

  17. It’s time to wake up There’s no answer to such a story fire Alarms or no fire alarms of course you have to do your hishtadlus but they are all taken away from us for a reason and there’s no way to even ask any questions bec there are no answers we shud all take this as a personal wake up call and especially all those married with children show love to them and appreciate them and thank Hashem for them can you imagine what this father has to go through now he left with a full family and now he’s left with a wife and ONE child in the hospital may both the mother and daughter have a fast recovery and the father we should all Daven for too with how he has to continue the rest of his life with no family

  18. I am old enough to remember a similar tragedy on Shabbos Noach 1982 [marChehvan 6th] when 4 children perished from a fallen Shabbos candle in middle of nite:- unequivocal message given out then was :- Get smoke detectors!!!!!

  19. Of course we should make sure to have working smoke alarms but this is not the reason that these children died. This was supposed to happen by Hashems will and would have happened regardless of whether there were smoke alarms or not. Tragic beyond belief bde.

  20. I believe that Rebbi Ya’akov (Kaminetzki) held that only a Navi can say with certainty why a specific tragedy happened. (Though we do find ChaZa”L giving (several) reasons for the Churban. The RaMBa”M, too, is discussing a tzara of the k’lal, something for which Beis Din is gozer a ta’anis tzibur.) But the Chafetz Chaim held that even a tragedy that happens to Goyim on the other side of the world is a wakeup call to T’shuva. Everyone must take a good, hard, look in the mirror. And buy smoke detectors.

  21. we must keep are faith in hashem
    strong !
    but i am still sick to my stomach
    thinking about this tragedy
    hashem please comfort this family
    and please bring moshiac now
    today in our time .

  22. I was with one of the manhigei hador when he was asked by a rebbi what to tell his class about three tragic and near tragic incidents that happened in his class. The Rosh HaYeshiva said, “Tell them that they must be careful.” Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l also said this many times. This is not in any way to blame the victims of a tragedy, and it is not to say that a cheshbon hanefesh is not in order – however, often the most important lesson falls by the wayside: Make sure that you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep flamable material away from fire – expecially on Shabbos. Make sure that electic appliances are in good working order. Also consider: Do you test and drive? Do you supervise your children properly? Do you teach your children what to do if they get lost? Are you careful with alcohol on Purim and simchos? The first thing to do teshuva on is carelessness; then make a cheshbon HaNefesh. If this terrible tragedy leads us to be more careful it will be a great zechus for the korbanos.

  23. Serele, What you write about dangerous appliances also applies to dangerous organizations. You replaced your old reliable Broil King because it presented a danger in its later damaged years. So too we have an organization that in its first 80 years was a bastion of Torah. To a great extent it still does that job but it is severely damaged and presents a danger from one corner that is already causing a disaster in Shabbos observance for many people with its fraudulent eruv. Where is this false eruv? It’s not in our Yeshivish areas so does it matter?

  24. I just hope that the comments remain at 23! There is really no reason to write “there are no words” just don’t write any words!!! Pretty much all of us are on the same page. This is a tragedy beyond comprehension. It’s without doubt from HaShem and there is a precise cheshbon. It does not mean that mashiach is coming any sooner then he’s suppose to. No reason to bring mashiach into this! As difficult it may be to accept, this is a p’sak min hashamayim!!!! All we can do is thank Hashem for what we have and Improve our avodas hashem. Be kind and considerate to others. Be honest and stop following in the ways of this sick society! Daven for the recovery of the mother and daughter. Daven for the sanity of the parents and daughter .
    Let us be proud to be different then the world and increase our emuna and bitachon. This is all we can do!

  25. geula,

    the smoke detector didnt malfunction, the hot plate did! they only had a smoke detector in the basement!

    secondly, the father was learning in the shul when it happened, she wasnt a “single mother”


    try crossing the highway, if Hashem wants you to get killed He will, you cant put yourself in a makom sakanah and say it was Hashems will

  26. mbachur:

    Father was NOT learning in shul. He was out of town at a conference. Check your facts.

    Moderators Note: Father WAS found in a Shul on the Lower East Side – check YOUR facts.

  27. Herbert8…how sad. If you acknowledge that the Ribbon Shel Olam did this, then obviously he has a Cheshbon way beyond our understanding. As painful as this is, losing Emunah is not the way to go here…rather we need to strengthen our Emunah.

  28. Having the battery run out on your smoke detector isn’t the same as running across the highway. Every tragedy that happens, people try to find something to blame it on, and therefore reason that the message doesn’t apply to them. That’s why Moshiach isn’t here yet. Nobody knows why it happened, but of all you take out of the tragedy is to check your smoke detectors, you totally missed the point. Don’t think that you are any safer!

  29. “Your beginning to lose your emuna”? you can’t lose what you never hadwhat exactly does it mean to you that you’re supposed to be able to understand things andif you don’t understand it it’s wrong

  30. I didn’t mean to write living alone but meant to write; being alone (for shabbos) Her husband must feel terrible! May hashem give him and her and her daughter koach and a refuah shleima

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