Margaret Lee watched as her neighbor desperately tried to save his daughter and his niece.
"He was trying to do everything," Lee said. "The door, the window, wherever he could go to get his babies, he tried. I think he got burned in the process."
A fire broke out at his three bedroom home around 6:30 a.m. at 911 East 15th Street in Chester, Delaware County.
A total of eight people were in the house, including two adults, three boys and three girls. Two of those residents, 9-year-old Amajhay Ferguson and her 6-year-old cousin died after they were trapped in separate bedrooms on the second floor. Neighbors say the father tried to save the children but the heavy, black smoke prevented him from going back inside the home.
"The father just keep screaming 'my children, my children, my children,'" said Don Dodds. "It's horrendous to think that those little babies are no longer here. It's just a shame."
Firefighters arrived within five minutes of the initial call. A 4-year-old boy was taken to the burn center of Crozer Chester Medical Center and is in critical condition. Police say at one point the boy stopped breathing inside the ambulance on the way to the hospital but EMTs were able to revive him.
"The whole first floor was completely engulfed in flames. There was nothing they (firefighters) could do in this situation. They made it to the second floor and did the best that they could do," said Chester Fire Department Battalion Chief Jack Powers.
A friend of the mother of one of the children says they were all at the home because the father had been recuperating from injuries he suffered during a car accident on Tuesday.
"It's just one of those situations that you can't account for emotionally...it's tough," said Chester Mayor John Linder.
Four firefighters also suffered non-life threatening injuries in the blaze. Two were released while two others remain in stable condition.
Fire investigators say there were working smoke detectors inside the home.
During the day, the mother of one of the victims was spotted weeping in despair as EMS officials led her away from the scene. Lee says her prayers go out to the family of the young girls.
"I hope they don't blame themselves for it," Lee said. "They tried to get those children out. They really did."
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