A brother and sister died Sunday while another child leaped from the burning fourth floor of a Lakeshore Dunes Apartments building in Gary's Miller neighborhood.
The two children suffered smoke inhalation and minor burns, Gary Fire Department Chief of Operations Mark Jones said. They were transported in critical condition to Methodist Northlake Hospital in downtown Gary.
The Lake County Coroner's office identified the victims Sunday night as Khristopher Gober, 4, and Kailani Gober, 2.
The cause and manner of death remain pending.
As the apartment building burned, an 8-year-old boy survived a dramatic leap into a blanket held by neighbors in what one bystander is calling "a miracle."
The blaze started on the fourth floor in the building at 5820 Forest Court, Jones said. The fire rendered the entire building at least temporarily uninhabitable, displacing 113 people who will have to find somewhere else to stay.
Jones confirmed the 8-year-old boy jumped from the burning fourth floor and neighbors caught him with a blanket. He was checked out by medics at the scene and was uninjured. Neighbors rescued several people, and firefighters pulled the two kids from the burning fourth floor, Jones said.
Neighbor Seka Ann McClelland, who lives in a building across from the one that caught on fire, saw a child screaming and crying in the window of a fourth-floor room that was filling with smoke. She said she ran into the building, banging on the door to get someone to let her in, and then rushed up the stairwell to the fourth floor where there was so much smoke she couldn't breathe and was forced to turn around.
"When I got to the fourth floor the smoke was so heavy and thick, you couldn't get in," she said. "So I ran out and yelled to get a blanket."
The 8-year-old boy was screaming and crying while a large group of neighbors got a blanket in place four stories underneath.
"He was scared," said McClelland, who provided a video of the jump off the building to the Times. "We were telling him to jump, that we'd catch him. I was praying to God. I feared he'd snap his neck, and I was praying to the Father."
More than a minute passed. The boy was visibly nervous, but slid out to where he was sitting on the window ledge with his feet danging out.
Suddenly, he jumped. Bystanders gasped and screamed in horror.
But he landed safely, flat on his back, and the neighbors wrapped him up in the blanket while a woman consoled him.
"It went so smooth I knew God was there," McClelland said. "We were crying and thanking God. It was amazing. You had to be there. We feared the fire would get him, smoke would get in his lungs. It was so unbelievable. The community came together and worked together to save him. It was a miracle, and I thank God the Father."
The Red Cross was on the scene to help those displaced from the 53-unit apartment building, one of several in the complex off Lake Street near Lake Michigan. Jones said it suffered heavy fire, smoke and water damage, including holes firefighters had to cut in the roof to spray the fire with aerial trucks, and it wasn't clear if residents in lower floors would ever be allowed to return.
The Gary Fire Department was called out to the scene at 11:40 a.m. and fought the blaze for more than four hours with a dozen trucks and the help of the Hobart and Lake Station Fire Departments, Jones said.
"We hit it with hand lines and aerials," he said. "It had spread through the fourth floor."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but arson is not initially suspected, he said.
Check nwi.com for updates.