Family’s scary tale of escape from deadly Bronx tower blaze

Survival came with a harrowing leap of faith for six teenagers who lived next door to the apartment where one of the deadliest blazes in New York City history broke out.

The family recounted to The Post their dramatic escape from their third-floor apartment at 333 E. 181st St. in The Bronx as smoke from a space heater fire flooded the building and ultimately killed 17 people, including eight children.

“The walls were bubbling, smoke and water started coming in, and so my son broke out the window and everybody got out of there,” said an emotional Nikki Campbell, 45, the mother of six, including the five teens ages 14-19.

“The worst part was watching my children screaming in the window, and I’m on the sidewalk and I can’t help them.”

Campbell was at work at the Parks Department when she got the desperate call from her trapped children about the fire down the hall.

The teens also phoned their oldest brother, 28-year-old Marqui, who was running errands. He rushed to the scene — and saved his family.

Campbell described how Marqui encouraged two of his siblings to climb out a window on the lower level of their duplex apartment — which spanned the second and third floors — and then cling to the lower ledge.

The next step — let go and hopefully land in his open arms.

Nikki Campbell was working when her children were caught in the Bronx fire.
Brigette Stelzer
Marqui Campbell, 28, caught his siblings and their friends as they jumped out of the burning Bronx building at 333 East 181st Street on Sunday.
Marqui Campbell stood on garbage bags while convincing his siblings to jump out of their apartment’s window to escape the fire.
Courtesy of Nikki Campbell

“My son stood at the bottom and the other kids jumped down and he caught them,” Campbell recounted.

“Marqui stood on some garbage bags and a mattress that were on the ground under my window,” she recounted, estimating the kids were 10 feet up before they jumped. “There’s an area under my window where they store garbage overnight — Marqui stood on top of it.”

Noel, 16, and Judge, 14, jumped into their big brother’s arms. It was Judge’s birthday party sleepover on Saturday night, so four of his friends who had stayed over were also rescued by Marqui’s steady arms.

Marqui Campbell, 28, caught his siblings and their friends as they jumped out of the burning Bronx building at 333 East 181st Street on Sunday.
Marqui Campbell encouraged his siblings and their friends friends to jump down 10 feet so he could catch them from the apartment window, according to his mother Nikki.
Courtesy of Nikki Campbell

Soon after, firefighters arrived with their ladder and rescued Campbells remaining trapped kids — Jamari, 19, Kanji, 17, and Taliya, 18.

The dramatic tale of survival came as Mayor Eric Adams revealed that big-hearted New Yorkers have donated more than $700,000 to a relief fund set up by his office to help the victims of the tragedy.

He also said city officials would “dig in” on rampant complaints about the self-closing doors not functioning properly in the tower — a failure that Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro said allowed deadly smoke to quickly fill the 19-story building.

View of the devastated building and apartments where deadly fire caused by malfunctioned space heater claimed 17 lives including 8 children in the Bronx.
The Bronx apartment building at 333 E. 181st Street previously received numerous maintenance complaints before the deadly blaze.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

The Post revealed Thursday that the city’s Housing Authority had documented squalid conditions at in several apartments in the building, affirming widespread complaints of neglect and mismanagement from tenants in the aftermath of Sunday’s blaze.

“There’s a lot landlords must learn. We are going to dig into and do those inspections and hotlines if the door’s not closing automatically,” Hizzoner told reporters at an unrelated press conference in Queens.

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