Child, 6, dies in Fort Lauderdale apartment fire

Father says daughter died due to smoke inhalation

By Natalie Morera - Executive Producer, Madeleine Wright - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE - A 6-year-old girl died after an apartment fire in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday night.

The girl's father identified her as Kaileen Alvaranga and said his daughter passed away due to smoke inhalation.

The fire started Sunday night at the apartment located at 1045 NE 8th Avenue. Kaileen's father, Leo Sears, said his daughter lived at the apartment with her mother and her mother's boyfriend.

According to neighbors, the family was trapped inside. They eventually were able to escape, except for Kaileen. 

"The flames was getting worser and worser," neighbor William Dunmore said. 

Dunmore said he opened the kitchen door and three children, their mother and the woman's boyfriend ran out of the home.

"(I) went inside the kitchen. (There was) too much gray smoke, so I came back out because nobody showed me where the baby was at," he said. 

Sears, who lives out of town, said he rushed to the apartment as soon as he found out about the fire.

"I was out here almost two, three hours just crying, trying to talk to police," he said. "My daughter, she was happy, you know? (She would say) "Daddy!' when she sees me. If you see her, she'll make your heart melt, you know? She's just my little angel."

The girl's aunt said relatives drove down from Palm Beach County after the fire to be with loved ones.  

A makeshift memorial now sits at the front door of the apartment to honor Kaileen.

"She was a lovely little girl and always happy, and my son and her (are) the same age," Kaileen's uncle, Ricot Marcelus, said. "They always together. It's very sad. It hurts me. Like it touches my soul right now."

One of Kaileen's aunts, Danya Deal, told Local 10 News that she is outraged because Kaileen's mother suffers from mental illness and should not have had custody over the young girl.

Deal said she is now worried for Kaileen's siblings and believes that someone "dropped the ball." 

Deal said she believes that Kaileen's death could have been avoided. 

It wasn't immediately clear whether the family had a history with the Broward Sheriff's Office's Child Protective Investigations Section or with the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

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