JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A boy who was badly burned in a massive apartment fire in Northwest Jacksonville has woken up from a coma, according to his cousin.
Taj Ethridge, his two sisters and his mother are still hospitalized after their apartment at Calloway Cove caught fire.
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Twelve families lost their homes at the HUD-assisted housing complex.
Taj’s cousin, Quanterria Ethridge, told Action News Jax the boy’s progress is a sliver of hope during a dark time for her family.
“I was told that he woke up yesterday out of his medical coma and he gave his dad a smile. And my uncle told him everything that happened,” said Quanterria Ethridge. “He told his dad that he was trying to save his sisters and he pushed, I’m guessing, Amira, his stepsister, out the window so somebody could catch her and save her.”
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She said her family told her Danielle Ethridge was cooking for her children Tuesday night when the gas stove exploded, blowing out the kitchen window.
“Their mother was the one that was cooking and that’s why it affected her so bad, because she was trying to save her babies,” said Quanterria Ethridge.
A state fire marshal spokesperson told Action News Jax it's still investigating what caused the fire.
Quanterria Ethridge said Danielle Ethridge and three of her children who were in the kitchen were badly burned.
She said Carla, the youngest, has been flown to Boston for treatment and Amira is in a medical coma.
She said Danielle Ethridge’s other two children were not as badly injured because they were in the bathtub.
An Action News Jax Investigation exposed the apartment complex has a history of fire safety violations.
“It makes me angry because I feel as though they ignored the signs, and all this could have been avoided if it was properly taken care of ahead of time,” said Quanterria Ethridge.
Calloway Cove failed its city fire marshal inspection last year with four fire code violations.
It passed reinspection six months later.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspectors found life-threatening health and safety deficiencies in Calloway Cove’s past three federal inspections.
A HUD spokesperson told Action News Jax, when inspectors find those significant deficiencies, they must be corrected immediately.
Action News Jax requested Calloway Cove’s full HUD inspection and reinspection reports to make sure that happened.
HUD found broken or missing smoke detectors during the apartment complex’s inspections in 2016 and 2015, but not during its most recent inspection in 2018.
Calloway Cove scored 82 out of 100 points on its February 2018 inspection.
That falls in the range where HUD doesn’t have to inspect it for another two years.
Millennia Housing Management turned down Action News Jax’s multiple requests for an interview about the complex’s history of fire safety violations.
The management company has not answered any of our emailed questions about what it’s done to make fire safety improvements, either.
Action News Jax spotted men wearing Millennia Housing Management shirts carrying about two dozen fire extinguishers near the apartment complex’s entrance Thursday afternoon.
A spokesperson for the company said the extinguishers are being installed in newly constructed units there.
TECO, the natural gas company at the apartment complex, told Action News Jax the last time they were called out there prior to the fire was in April to check for the smell of gas.
A TECO spokesperson said any gas leaks inside the apartments would not be their responsibility because they only provide gas to the master meter at the complex.
She said TECO has shut off natural gas to the building affected by the fire until the system is safe.
If you’d like to help the Ethridge family, you can find more information here.
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