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Funerals begin for Jamaican victims of Bronx fire

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Funerals began Monday for many of the victims, including Jamaicans, who perished in a massive fire in the Bronx on Dec. 28.

Iholt Francis had been planning a trip from Jamaica to New York to visit his twin brother to celebrate their 28th birthday. Instead, he arrived last week to take his brother off life support, according to reports.

Francis’s twin, Holt Francis, died a week after the Bronx fire ripped through his apartment building, killing four members of his Jamaican family and eight other people.

The fire was the deadliest in New York City in 27 years, the New York Times said.

The paper said the fire was started by a three-year-old boy who was playing with a stove, and was fueled by gusty winds.

Funeral services were expected to be held Monday, at the R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home in Manhattan, for Holt Francis; his wife, Karen Stewart-Francis, 37; their daughters, Kylie, 2, and Kelesha, 7; and their cousin, Shawntay Young, 19.

Their bodies will be sent to St. Catherine Parish in Jamaica for burial on Jan. 21, the Times said.

It said several other funerals will be held over the next few weeks. Services were held on Sunday for the youngest victim, seven-month-old Amora Batiz, and her grandmother, Maria Batiz, 65.

Ms. Stewart-Francis, a hotel housekeeper, belonged to a close-knit family from southeast Jamaica, the Times said.

It said some relatives had lived in the building, on Prospect Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood in the Bronx, for nearly a decade.

Her family occupied five apartments there, and relatives doubled as babysitters, cooks and hairdressers, the Times said.

Her sister, Andrene Paul, said the family was still raising money to cover the cost of transporting their bodies to Jamaica for burial.

Paul said it had always been her sister’s wish to be buried there alongside their father, according to the Times.

Ms. Stewart-Francis was the youngest of their parents’ 13 children, and “she and our father were joined at the hip,” Paul said.

Francis joined her in the United States in 2016, and the two married that May. They had lived in the apartment building for about a year, Paul said.

“We always try to stick together because kids are involved,” said Paul, whose pregnant daughter lived on the third floor with her husband and 10-year-old son. “It works that way, like a community for each other.”

Many of the fire’s victims were working-class immigrants, and relatives have been frustrated in their efforts to plan funerals because they are unfamiliar with the process and have little money to cover expenses, the Times said.

It said six victims of the fire were from the Ashanti region in Ghana. They included a soldier and two children.

Updated 6:09 pm, January 10, 2018
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