The Guatemalan immigrant accused of setting Saturday's fatal fire in Brooklyn admitted starting the blaze and claimed he helped rescue one of the infants living in the apartment building, officials said.
"He confessed to the arson," police spokesman Paul Browne said of the suspect, Daniel Ignacio.
Browne wouldn't disclose the remarks made by Ignacio in a videotaped statement he gave to police Tuesday. Ignacio, whose age is given by investigators as both 29 and 27, was awaiting arraignment late Tuesday in Brooklyn criminal court on five counts of second-degree murder and arson in connection with the fire on 86th Street in Bensonhurst.
All five of the dead were immigrants from Guatemala, police said.
A law enforcement official who didn't want to be identified said that Ignacio admitted soaking some toilet paper in an accelerant that was probably paint thinner, then placing it in a baby carriage and lighting it. Ignacio, who police believe was drunk, then went upstairs to his second-floor apartment.
The building is owned by Vasilios Gerazounis of New Hyde Park. A man at Gerazounis' home said the family would have no comment.
Police said three video recordings have been uncovered that show activity at the apartment building in the minutes before the fire erupted.
One surveillance recording uncovered by police showed three people leaving the building at around 2:15 a.m. Saturday. A second surveillance video showed Ignacio leaving two minutes later and then returning at about 2:19, said a police official.
Within five minutes of Ignacio's return, smoke is seen coming from the building on the video, followed by people jumping from the building and hitting the sidewalk or landing in people's arms, said a police official.
Ignacio, who police said was deported back to Guatemala in 2003 after doing 10 months for a Brooklyn burglary, later re-entered the United States illegally, police said.
Ignacio and a brother said he was on the ledge at one point and passed an infant from someone on the third floor to firefighters on a ladder, according to police. Another video reviewed by detectives showed Ignacio leaving the ledge on the fire department ladder as smoke swirled around the apparatus, according to police.
With Matthew Chayes