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Cigarettes and fireworks may have caused Chicago apartment that killed 9, authorities say

The fatal Chicago apartment in the weekend claimed its ninth victim.

(AP)

Authorities in Chicago on Monday said a ninth victim died in an apartment fire on the weekend that authorities suspect was started by fireworks, cigarettes or other smoking materials.

Cesar Contreras, 14, died on Monday night at a hospital, while another boy of the same age remains in critical condition, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Fire department spokesman Larry Langford said researchers learned that children had set off fireworks on the porch in the past and that people had smoked cigarettes.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. Sunday in a three-storey complex in Chicago’s little Village neighborhood, killed seven children and two adults. The researchers did not find working smoke alarms in the building.

“We do not have this, in many, many, many years — this amount of fatalities and injuries in one location,” Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago told reporters, adding that one of the children killed was a child

The medical examiner’s office released the identity of three of the children who died in the fire as a 3-month-old Amaya Almaraz, 10-year-old Giovanni Monarrez and 16-year-old Victor Mendoza. All three were listed as residents of the block where the fire happened.

Although an exact cause has yet to be determined, Langford, these children have of fireworks on the porch in the past and it was also a place where people smoked cigarettes. He said that investigators have ruled out problems with the buildings electrical system as a cause, and don’t believe it was intentional. Langford did point out that if there are working smoke alarms, the victims would have made it in life.

“Because of where it started, (on the rear veranda of a rear building), if it has at least one smoke detector, they would wake up and ran out the front door,” Langford said. “They could have picked up everyone and made it out with a staircase and out (because) she had a clear shot for the door.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the city’s Buildings Department says the apartment building owner is by the court the following month after cited for two electrical violations.

The fire is Chicago the deadliest since at least 2000, and possibly since 1993, when 19 people died in a blaze that engulfed a single occupancy residential hotel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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