LOWELL — Relatives today identified six of the people killed in the worst residential fire in the past two decades in Massachusetts as five members of one family, and a woman who was heading out of the burning building, but returned to try and save her dog.
The family members identified as Torn Sak, his long-time girlfriend, Ellen Vuong, and three of their children, 12-year-old Anthony Sak, 9-year-old Ryan Sak and 7-year-old Sayuri Sak. The couple’s two other children, boys aged 14 and 11, escaped from the third-floor apartment, along with their grandfather and a roommate, relatives said.
“He’s a family man. He loved his kids. He loved his wife,’’ said Thearan Sak, Sak’s younger brother, who identified his missing relatives. “My family, they live in a bad neighborhood, but they are not bad people.’’
Thearan Sak, who sometimes broke into tears while at the scene on Branch Street earlier today, added, “I can’t believe something like this happened.’’
He said a total of nine people lived in the unit. The seven-member Sak family, the grandfather, and a roommate.
Thearan Sak said he did not know how the survivors made it out of the building and that the Sak boys were also mystified as to how they survived.
“It’s sad to see my brother and his family go out like that,” said Sak. “I’m trying to be strong for my family.”
Sak described his brother and his brother’s girlfriend as loving parents who had been together for many years. Torn Sak said his brother did not work because he could not read well, but that he drove his partner to work every day at a Hannaford supermarket, where she was a grocery manager.
“She was a hard worker,” he said of Vuong. “She worked her way up from the bottom.”
On Branch Street, the uncle of Tina Christakos was mourning the loss of his niece.
Tina Christakos was 38 years old, said Bobby Christakos, her uncle.
“It’s just a tragedy,” he said. “38 years old, that’s too young.”
A survivor of the fire said in a separate interview that Christakos was leaving the apartment when she apparently returned to try and save her Chihuahau, Paula.
Bobby Christakos said his niece was “a great kid who took great care of her daughter.” That daughter, Felicia Neov, was also at the scene.
“She was a mother. She lived to go out with her kids and have a great time,” he said. “She never bothered anybody, never had a bad word to say about anybody.”
He said she had a job in which she worked with kids.
“She was good all around. She took care of everybody,” he said.
Neov said her mother lived with her boyfriend in Apartment 4 on the third floor. The
boyfriend escaped, but Neov said she feared one of their roommates, a man in his 60s, had not survived.
Neov described the apartment as “rundown, trashy, and infested with mice.”
She described her mother as someone who “liked to enjoy her life, liked to help people.”
Neighbors have provided a name for the seventh victim, a man in his 70s, but his relatives could not immediately be reached for comment today.