The family of the 10-year-old boy who was killed in a Northeast Heights apartment fire early Tuesday has identified him as Ja’Zay Simpson.
“He was charismatic, loving and kind,” Ja’Zay’s aunt Tamara Anderson told the Journal. “He loved his family, especially his siblings. He loved sports, playing with friends and dancing with his big sister. He will be missed by many but never forgotten.”
Ja’Zay’s two sisters, ages 2 and 13, were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and were in critical condition Tuesday.
Family members said their mother has been staying by their side at the University of New Mexico Hospital.
“She is as good as can be expected,” Anderson said, referring to Ja’Zay’s mother. “She is a strong lady.”
Lt. Tom Ruiz, a spokesman for Albuquerque Fire Rescue, said shortly after 2 a.m. firefighters were called to the Sierra Meadows apartment complex on Eubank NE, south of Montgomery.
When they arrived, they found a building consumed by flames and billowing with smoke. Residents had jumped from second-story apartments and several people were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
Police officers were also called to the scene because a woman had been heard saying “please don’t hurt me,” according to Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department.
Gallegos said Tuesday night that it was unknown who said that statement or how it originated.
Ruiz said AFR’s arson unit is continuing to investigate how and where the fire started.
“They’re actively looking for clues,” he said. “They have several resources there to help them determine the cause and the origin of the fire. It’s a very slow and methodical process but one that they don’t want to miss a step on because once they miss it they can’t go back.”
Gallegos said the outcome of AFR’s investigation will determine how APD detectives proceed.
The fire destroyed six apartments and displaced 30 residents, about half of whom are children, according to the New Mexico Chapter of the American Red Cross.
In the immediate aftermath – after 70 firefighters battled the blaze for 45 minutes to get it under control – Ruiz announced a child was unaccounted for.
It was several hours before investigators were able to stabilize the building enough to enter and look for his body.