Mother, children killed in Town 'n' Country apartment fire identified

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The mother and children who died in a fire at a Town 'n' Country apartment complex were identified by their roommate as Meralys Velasquez, Ethan Duque, 5, and Sophia Duque, 10.

As tenants at Captiva Club Apartments cope with what happened and salvage what they can from the eight-unit building, Hillsborough County fire investigators have released a series of reports from two previous major fires at the complex.

The reports detail the investigations following a 2015 fire at the Captiva Club Apartments that destroyed a 16-unit building and a 2018 fire that ripped through an eight-unit building.

According to the reports, investigators looked into possible electrical malfunctions in both cases and, in the 2015 incident, whether a cigar had been extinguished improperly. The damage, however, was too extensive to tell.

The causes of the two fires ended up listed as "undetermined."

"It's scary, man. It's really scary and the fact that it's happened within the past years, it's terrifying," said Jessie Tuchyner, who was among the tenants displaced by the fire that broke out Wednesday morning. "It's really devastating what happened here, honestly. It's hard for us to deal with it."

Recent inspection reports show the complex did not have any violations. For some tenants, however, the lack of clarity regarding the causes of the fires doesn't help their uneasiness.

"It's like something has to be done. Can't have another fire. Some innocent people died. What's next?" said Ian Mitchell, who lived in one of the damaged units. "I just can't stop thinking about the kids because it was kids and a mom in there."

A spokesperson for Captiva Club Apartments released the following statement:

As of this statement, the Fire Marshal’s office has not released a report on the cause of the fire and the investigation is still ongoing. We have asked the authorities for the expected delivery date of the report, but have not received any official notice as to when the report might be released.

In the meantime, our top priority has been to support the residents impacted by the fire. Our management team has worked to contact all of the residents whose apartments were damaged and has offered them temporary accommodations at other apartment units within the property.  A few residents have opted to utilize the available apartments, and others have sought accommodations elsewhere.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community and neighboring residents.  Our team has set up a Donation Center in the Leasing Office to collect items such as clothing, non-perishable foods, and other household items for affected residents, and the Tampa chapter of the Red Cross is also accepting donations.

This has been a challenging time for everyone, and our team is working around the clock to ensure the safety and comfort of its residents. We will provide more information as it becomes available.