More than a dozen American girls fled a second-storey dance studio onto a balcony as a roaring fire engulfed their building, some dropping or jumping to the pavement as bystanders tried to rescue them with ladders.
The rescue efforts in New Jersey were captured in a video that shows the screaming children either falling into the arms of their rescuers or hitting the ground before being pulled away from the flames yesterday.
About 15 girls were treated for minor injuries, Mayor Michel Joseph McPartland said.
Ilker Kesiktas, who shot the video, said today that he grabbed a fire extinguisher when he saw flames climb the side of the row of businesses, including a restaurant he and his friends frequent, in Edgewater, a town on the Hudson River just north of New York City.
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But the flames were already too high and quickly approaching the dance studio where the girls were having class. Kesiktas and a friend joined several other people in rescuing the girls, setting up ladders and, when the flames got too high, encouraging them to jump from a second-story balcony to safety.
"I was the one who called the fire department. It was... I don't want to think about it. I had trouble sleeping last night. It was crazy," Kesiktas said. "We got a fire extinguisher, and we just started blowing it, but it was just doing nothing."
Business owner Tony Nehmi told NJ.com he and a police officer helped some of the girls down before the ladders fell during the fire.
McPartland told NBC New York it was "one of the bravest things I've ever seen."
The cause of the fire at the building, which also houses a hookah lounge and auto body shop, was under investigation.