Sasson Family home in Brooklyn, NY.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The lives of Gayle and Gabriel Sasson revolved around their eight children, seven of whom were killed during a raging weekend fire in the family’s Brooklyn home, a close friend of the couple said on Sunday.
Nomi Weinfeld, who lived near the Sassons in Ramot Eshkol for four years before the family relocated to New York a year-and-a-half ago, described the tight-knit brood as “wonderful, kind people.”
“Gayle’s three eldest daughters are close to my daughters and they went to camp together every summer in Upstate New York,” Weinfeld said.
“They were always looking to do the right thing and were very growth oriented.”
Weinfeld described Gayle, 45, the children’s mother, who survived the fire by jumping out of her home’s second story window, as “very creative, very artistic and very fun-loving.”
“She was always working on herself to be a good mother and person,” she said.
According to Weinfeld, the Sassons decided to move back to New York after 15 years in Israel to be closer to family.
During their years living in Har Nof, and later Ramot Eshkol, she said the family was beloved by their neighbors.
“They were serious and just good and happy people,” she said. “The story is heartbreaking.
There are no words.”
The bodies of Eliane, 16, Rivkah, 13, Sara, 5, David, 12, Yeshua, 10, Moshe, 8, and Yaakob, 5, were en route to Israel Sunday night for a Monday funeral in Jerusalem, Weinfeld said.
Described as New York City’s deadliest fire in seven years, Gayle and daughter Siporah, 15, remain in critical condition after narrowly escaping the flames by jumping out of a window of the fire-ravaged home.
At the time of the fire, Gabriel was away at a religious conference.
The blaze, which erupted just before 12:30 a.m. Saturday, is believed to have been started accidentally by a hot plate in the home’s kitchen.
“This is an unbelievable tragedy,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters after seeing the devastation at the site of the blaze. “Every New Yorker is feeling this pain right now.”
Responding to reports of flames inside the home, firefighters forced their way in and extinguished the fire, finding the children in their bedrooms near the back of the home.
“I heard the mother yelling: ‘My kids are in there! My kids are in there! Get them out! Get them out!’” neighbor Nate Weber told The New York Daily News. “The mother was outside.
She was burned.”
Gayle and Siporah were taken to an area hospital in critical condition, New York Fire Department spokesman Michael Parrella said.
More than 100 firefighters turned out to battle the blaze in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood and brought it under control within an hour, he added.
Gabriel did not learn what had happened until several hours after the fire, when the Police Department reached him at a synagogue.
According to the chairman of the Sephardi Hevra Kadisha of Jerusalem, the funerals will take place Monday at Har Hamenuhot.Jeremy Sharon and Reuters contributed to this report.