June 24--LAUDERHILL -- Home alone when a pre-dawn fire erupted Monday, an 8-year-old boy died while his brother, 9, made a dramatic escape by leaping from a second-story bedroom window, officials said.
Jayden Isme, 8, died at the scene of a townhouse fire so violent that responding firefighters had to retreat from the smoke and flames, said Lt. Michael Butkus, a spokesman for the Lauderhill Police Department.
Justin Isme, 9, who jumped to safety, ran to a neighbor and called 911, suffered minor injuries and will survive, Butkus said.
"I saw a little boy who was running, and he must have thought the other boy was behind him but he wasn't," said Sally Williams, who lives nearby. "It hurts me, it just hurts."
The boys lived at the townhome at 2031 NW 59th Way with their mother. Their father stayed there occasionally, Butkus said.
"We were able to confirm that the children were left home alone," Butkus said late Monday afternoon. "There definitely is a possibility of criminal charges, but we're going to wait until the investigation plays out."
Butkus did not release the parents' names or whereabouts at the time the fire started. The couple spent most of Monday being questioned at police headquarters.
When units arrived about 4:30 a.m., the flames engulfing the two-story townhome were so intense that firefighters had to back out of the crumbling building. At one point, the roof began to cave in, Butkus said.
The brothers had been in a second-floor bedroom. Next door neighbor Michael Florent, 31, said the two were friendly, outgoing, "heavy into sports" and nearly inseparable.
"Always together," Florent said. "When you seen one, you seen the other one, always together."
Butkus said after Justin jumped out, he "did try to get the other brother out but was unable to."
Justin was taken to Plantation General Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.
Williams said she was drawn outdoors so early in the morning by the commotion.
"First I heard the sirens, then I came outside and saw the flames," Williams said. "There was screaming, screaming, screaming: 'Get out, get out,' something like that."
By late Monday afternoon authorities had not determined the origin or cause of the fire or how long the boys had been alone, Butkus said.
"There's nothing that I'm seeing or hearing that would indicate there was any type of real malicious activity that has gone on," Butkus said. "It appears to have been an unfortunate tragedy."
Jayden's body remained inside the charred ruins of the townhome for several hours while officials determined if it was safe enough to go inside.
Florent said his 8-year-old son often would ride bikes and skateboard with the brothers, who on Sunday were fishing in a canal behind the complex.
The devastating realization that one had died was hard to digest, Florent said: "You shouldn't leave kids alone in the house like that."
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