GRETNA, La. – Multiple agencies are investigating an overnight fire that damaged two duplexes in Gretna and resulted in the death of two eight-year-old girls early Sunday morning.
According to David Crockett Fire Department Chief Mike Labruzza, the fire started at a home in the 2300 block of Lafayette Street around 1:30 a.m.
When firefighters arrived, they said the duplex was engulfed in flames and spread to a home next door.
A grandmother and four children were in the home when the fire broke out, according to Brant Thompson, Louisiana State Fire Marshal Chief Deputy. The woman was able to escape the fire with a four and five-year-old boy, but two eight-year-old twin girls died, Thompson said.
The children were all cousins, and the grandmother lived in the home, officials said.
Jacqueline Lee, a neighbor, was awoken to the sounds of her neighbors begging for help.
"They were all screaming," Lee said.
Lee and her husband rushed outside and tried to fight the fire with a garden hose.
"He tried to help, but could not help. Big fire," Lee said.
Neighbors told WWL-TV the twins who died in the fire were visually impaired.
"It wasn't until this morning they got them out and everyone was in tears," neighbor Earl Hansen said. "Firemen, police. To see these two little girls. It was terrible," Hansen said.
Hansen helplessly watched the fire engulf the two homes.
"You hate to see anyone lose a house but when the children go, that's something different," Hansen said.
Neighbors say despite their disabilities, the twin girls were always playing outside and even learning how to ride bikes.
"It's just sad, tragic because they were just learning how to do things on their own and that's it," neighbor Caleb Hunter said.
Neighbors placed a teddy bear and balloons outside the house.
Thompson said the fire started in the kitchen area, but the exact cause is currently still under investigation by the Jefferson Parish Fire Department, Louisiana State Fire Marshal and Gretna Police Department.
An autopsy has been scheduled, where Thompson said detectives will be present. The girls' identities have been withheld pending the autopsy.
Fire departments at the scene included David Crockett, Westwego, 9 Mile Point, Harvey, Avondale and Terrytown. Twenty-nine firefighters helped to put the flames out, officials said.