ST. LOUIS -- Two small children died after they were left alone in a St. Louis apartment that caught fire and a woman is in custody while the blaze is investigated, authorities said.
A 5-year-old girl died Monday at a hospital, a day after the blaze broke out at the Clinton-Peabody public housing complex. A 6-month-old boy was found dead by firefighters who responded to the blaze. A third child, a 4-year-old girl, is hospitalized in critical condition.
Police have not disclosed the names of the woman or the children, or their relationship to each other. But fire officials said the children were left alone in the apartment.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the bomb and arson squads and child abuse detectives, police said.
A neighbor, Chaz Isreal, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was with friends in a nearby apartment when they realized there was a fire. They ran to the apartment building and one of the men kicked in the door.
Isreal said he put on a painter's mask and tried to go inside, but the smoke was too thick.
"I tried but I couldn't get through," he said.
In August, firefighters rescued four children from a burning St. Louis home and charged both parents with endangering their welfare. Authorities say those children had been left home alone.
In that fire, all four children were ages 4 or younger. They were found hiding from the fire in a playroom, including two in a play tent and one in a closet. Three of them were in cardiac arrest initially, but all four survived.