Girl, 7, and boy, 10, killed in Rancho Bernardo condo fire – The San … – The San Diego Union-Tribune
For the first time, 10-year-old Cristos Lopez was old enough to do the scaring at the annual Halloween school carnival. Dressed as a skeleton grim reaper, the fifth-grader worked the haunted house Friday night, spooking the little kids and loving every minute of it.
Meanwhile, his sister, 7-year-old Isabella Lopez — who everyone called Bella — showed off her sassy version of “Monster High” character Frankie Stein, from the striped wig down to the black-and-white dress shoes.
The last night of their lives began with playful frights and ended in a horrific fire that consumed their two-story condominium in Rancho Bernardo.
Both children were carried away from the inferno by firefighters, but their injuries were too severe. They were pronounced dead at separate hospitals later Saturday morning.
Their father, Henry Lopez, 37, was also rescued from the blaze and remains in serious condition.
San Diego fire and police investigators from the Metro Arson Strike Team are working to determine the cause and origin of the fire and whether it was accidental or intentional. Homicide detectives are helping with the early investigation because of the deaths and the undetermined nature of the fire, said police Lt. Mike Holden.
The fire was reported at 3:18 a.m. Saturday by someone who was driving by the complex on Bernardo Terrace, off Bernardo Center Drive and Regalo Lane. The 911 caller reported flames coming from a second-story bedroom window, said Holden.
The siblings were upstairs with their father when firefighters arrived four minutes later. The firefighters had to force their way in through the front door and pulled the victims out of the unit, authorities said. All three were unconscious, Holden said.
The blaze was knocked down in about 20 minutes, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokeswoman Monica Munoz.
Isabella was taken to Palomar Medical Center Poway and declared dead, while her brother and father were taken to UCSD Medical Center, where Cristos died.
Both children attended Sunset Hills Elementary School, where Cristos excelled in math and science and Isabella took to reading and spelling, said family friend Sam Trink.
As siblings, they were inseparable and best friends, she said.
“They were very outgoing, very smart, very well-liked,” Trink told the Union-Tribune in an interview.
Cristos enjoyed basketball and boxing and aspired to be either a professional basketball player or a banker.
“Cristos would always push aside his needs in order to protect or help someone else no matter what the cost was,” Trink said.
Isabella was a girly-girl who loved playing dress up and pretending to be like her older sister, Sahana, who is away at college. Another older sister, Mariah, also attends college. Isabella wanted to be a doctor when she grew up.
“Just really full of life,” Trink said of both.
Their parents were in the middle of a divorce, and the children would stay at the condo with their father every weekend, said Trink. The mother, Nikia Lopez, had recently requested full custody of the children, Trink said.
“She’s a complete mess,” said Trink, who is close friends with the mother and whose son was best friends with Cristos.
Nikia Lopez, who works as a preschool teacher, is a breast cancer survivor who has been caring for her own mother battling cancer. She moved into a nearby apartment after separating from her husband and cared for the kids during the week.
The children are grandkids of Chargers Hall of Famer Paul Lowe.
Hours after the early morning fire, the complex was quiet, with only a few residents wandering outside, some of them talking softly among themselves about the incident.
One man, whose son and daughter frequently played with the siblings, described them as well mannered, fun-loving youngsters who delighted in playing with other kids in the complex in the driveway area behind their home.
“Everyone is just in disbelief,” said the neighbor, who said he preferred to not have his name used. “My kids would play with them every weekend, so they’re still processing this. This is just a lot to take in.”
He described Isabella as his 8-year-old daughter’s best friend.
“They would play with their dolls and dip them in buckets of water like they were giving them a bath,” he said. “They’d also choreograph dances and then put on a show for us.”
Other neighbors talked about how they were awakened by the strong smell of smoke.
“A friend who was staying with us had heard some screaming and sounds like someone was kicking in a door,” said Darron Bishop, a resident whose garage faces the garage of the home that was burned. “There was a lot of smoke, it’s just heartbreaking.”
Sharona Silver, whose bedroom window had been open, said she was awakened by the powerful smell of smoke. When she walked into her mother’s bedroom, her mom told her that she had just seen one of the firefighters administering CPR on one of the children.
“That was when I just started bawling,” Silver said.
7:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.
12:10 p.m.: This article was updated with confirmation of the deaths.
This article was originally published at 5:30 a.m.