Mother charged with endangering children by drinking in fire

Written by Staff Writer

(CNN) — An Illinois mother who had been out for hours drinking was charged Thursday with two counts of felony child endangerment, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said.

Here’s what we know so far about the incident:

Fire

Authorities were called to the South Side of Chicago about 7:30 p.m. CT, and arrived to find the building engulfed in flames.

Two women and three children were found inside the building. One woman had been taken to a hospital.

According to the state’s attorney’s office, a witness reported seeing Edith Banks, 60, walking down the street earlier in the evening, calling someone “we’re going to die tonight.” A neighbor told investigators Banks was drunk.

The witness had also seen Banks carrying a heavy bag later in the evening. An autopsy showed the mother died of blunt force trauma to the head and chest, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said four of the five victims were identified as juveniles, all younger than 8 years old. The five victims ranged in age from 1 to 8 years old. One boy, 2-year-old Antonio Payne, was initially described as being in critical condition. Three of the children died later that night, a Cook County Medical Examiner’s office spokeswoman said.

A 5-year-old girl was declared dead at Lurie Children’s Hospital, Langford said. A 2-year-old boy was declared dead at Weiss Memorial Hospital, while another child, 5-year-old Antonio James, died at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

The two older children found in the fire, 3-year-old Ashley Nicole Banks and 6-year-old Matthew James Banks, were pronounced dead on arrival at Comer Children’s Hospital, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

The two older children found in the fire, 3-year-old Ashley Nicole Banks and 6-year-old Matthew James Banks, were pronounced dead on arrival at Comer Children’s Hospital, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

In a statement, Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said, “We have every reason to believe this fire was started by an accidental short. While we continue to investigate, at this time there are no signs of criminal intent. That said, we are working with law enforcement officials to investigate as a precaution.”

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