An Easter weekend blaze that killed two young siblings in the basement of a Bayswater, Queens, house, was caused by children playing with fire, a New York Fire Department spokesman said yesterday.
The fire, which claimed the lives of Jai'Launi Tinglin and his half-sister Aniya Tinglin, both 4, has been ruled "accidental," said FDNY spokesman Khalid Baylor.
Baylor said the department was still investigating the exact cause of the fire and could not offer details about what sparked the deadly blaze.
The two children had suffered smoke inhalation and were pronounced dead at St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, according to the NYPD.
The two were in the Bay 30th Street home when the fire broke out late Saturday at the foot of a bed in a basement bedroom as the children's 63-year-old grandfather slept.
Jai'Launi's twin sister, the grandfather and a 55-year-old woman survived the blaze. Each was taken to a separate hospital and all were listed in stable condition Sunday.
Baylor said it was unclear whether there were working smoke detectors in the house and that the department was also investigating response times to the fire.
Neighbors said the grandfather, known as "Papi" or "Pops," tried desperately to save his grandchildren.
Ryan Raj, 25, said he saw the man run out of the home holding one child. But Raj and others restrained him as he tried to plunge back into the smoke-filled home to rescue the two other children.
"He was trying to go back in for the other two babies," Raj said, adding that the grandfather was crying and had burns on his hands. "He kept asking . . . 'What's going on with the babies? Are the babies OK?' He tried to save them. There was no way."
Jennifer Weisel, 29, who lives around the corner, watched as firefighters pulled the children from the house.
"I heard a fireman scream . . . 'I got them, I got them,' " she said, adding that first responders worked on the children for almost a half-hour on the grass. "It's just absolutely horrible to lose two kids on Easter Sunday."
Herman Ojeda, 38, who lives across the street, said the grandfather is the gardener for many on the block and doted on his grandchildren.
"That's all he talks about -- he loved those kids," Ojeda said.
With Alison Fox