Medical examiner confirms identity of mother, 32, who died with kids in Town ‘N Country fire

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TAMPA — Authorities on Friday confirmed the identity of a woman who died this week with her two children in a fire at the Captiva Club Apartments in Town ‘N Country.

The body of Meralys Velazquez, 32, was found in the master bathroom of a second-floor apartment burned during a fire that broke out early Wednesday, according to a preliminary report from Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office. The bodies of her daughter, 10, and son, 5, were found nearby.

Names of the children are redacted from the preliminary report, but Velazquez’s roommate Carmela Ortiz identified them to the Tampa Bay Times as Sophia and Ethan.

Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies were called to 4541 Castaway Drive about 3:30 a.m. and arrived minutes later to find flames shooting out of the roof of Building 3 in the complex off Memorial Highway, authorities previously reported.

Ortiz told the Times that when the fire alarm sounded, she ran into Velazquez in the hallway of their three-bedroom apartment. Velazquez went back into the master bedroom she shared with the children to retrieve them, but never made it out of the apartment, Ortiz said. The family’s 2-year-old Chihuahua Zoe was also missing and presumed dead.

According to the medical examiner reports, Velazquez’s body was found partially inside the tub of the master bathroom. Sophia’s body was found lying on the bathroom floor, partially buried under ash and debris. Ethan’s body was in a closet, his head pressed against the wall of the closet and the doorframe of the bathroom, the reports say.

No other injuries were reported.

In all, eight units were damaged or destroyed, displacing about a dozen people, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. The state Fire Marshal was still working Friday to determine the cause of the fire.

Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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