Mayor Bill de Blasio called the deaths of two Bronx toddlers burned from a burst radiator “unprecedented” and “a freak accident," and assured New Yorkers that a detailed explanation would follow a rigorous investigation that is underway.
Sisters Scylee Vayhoh Ambrose, 1, and Ibanez Ambrose, 2, died from burns they suffered on Wednesday when a radiator valve in their apartment burst and filled the room with scalding steam. At least one of their parents was inside the home when the rupture occurred, according to reports.
“This was a freak accident, a series of painful coincidences that led to the loss of these children,” de Blasio said during the news conference Thursday afternoon. “We are trying to put the pieces together, but so far cannot understand how something like this could happen.”
The assumption, he said, is that something happened to the valve, which caused it to separate and spew steam “with extraordinary intensity.”
An expert on the topic of heating systems and radiators, Peter Grech, director of education at the Superintendent Technical Association, said he has not a clue what could have happened.
“I’ve been a superintendent for 41 years and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of one blowing up,” he told Metro.
“There are probably hundreds of thousands of radiators in New York, so this is extremely unusual. I have a feeling we may see a regulation coming over this,” Grech added.
The mayor said the multiagency investigation will seek to determine how the steam explosion occurred, adding that an initial examination of the building’s heating unit, which he described as having a joint oil system, did not indicate any serious trouble in the other apartments.
He said that a leading expert he consulted has “never seen anything like this.”
For safety reasons, four other families have moved out of the apartment building. The six-story, privately-owned building at 720 Hunts Point Ave. is considered "cluster housing" because it combines homeless families with families such as the Ambroses, who are not homeless.
Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. announced late Thursday afternoon that he has asked City Council Member Rafael Salamanca to introduce legislation that would prevent the city from leasing space for homeless individuals in buildings that have outstanding C-level code violations or stop-work orders.
"The cluster homeless shelter program has been broken for a long time and should have been eliminated years ago," he said.
The mayor said during his news conference that the city "absolutely, as planned, will close all the cluster sites."
Tips for radiator safety from Peter Grech, Director of Education at the Superintendent Technical Association of New York:
- 1. Cast iron type radiators should be protected with some sort of cover to prevent burns from touching or steam.
- 2. If noises are coming from the radiator don’t assume it’s normal. Call a super as soon as possible.
- 3. The valve should be fully open or fully closed. It should never be half open or three-quarters open as that will limit the water to the radiator and increase banging.
- 4. If a little steam is coming out of the vent it needs to be replaced: it is not an emergency but it must be fixed.
- 5. On a one-pipe steam radiator, the valve needs to be tilted slightly towards the radiator, while the air vent pipe needs to perfectly straight so the water can drain properly when the steam cools to water.