Fatoumala Drammeh, a third-year student studying political science, was among the 17 people killed in a high-rise fire in the Bronx Sunday, UB confirmed in a statement.
Drammeh, 21, died in the fire along with her mother, 19-year-old sister and 12-year-old brother. An on-campus resident, Drammeh was active in the Educational Opportunity Program and served as the vice president of UB PULSE (Powerful United Ladies Striving to Elevate).
“Our e-board will remember her as a diligent, kind, strong and hardworking individual,” an Instagram post from UB Pulse reads. “She had the ability to light up whatever room she walked into. She was ambitious, outspoken and stood up for what she believed in. She upheld the standard of our mission statement of fighting for minority women to have a voice, not only on campus, but Fatoumala used hers for change in her community.”
In a statement Wednesday, UB Vice President for Student Life Brian Hamluk said UB was made aware of Fatoumala’s death on Wednesday and “remains heartbroken over the loss of one of our own.”
“She is remembered by those in the UB community as an ambitious and kind student and we mourn the loss of such a promising, passionate young woman,” Hamluk said.
UB is offering grief counseling to students at 716-645-2720.
The university says it is reaching out to relatives to offer condolences.
Drammeh’s cousin, Nhuma Darame, started a GoFundMe Tuesday to “build a well for each of the family members we lost,” pay for Fatoumala’s brother’s medical expenses and raise money for housing expenses. In two days, the fundraiser has brought in more than $141,000 from more than 5,000 donors.
Sunday’s fire was one of the deadliest in modern New York City history. Seventeen people died, including eight children, the youngest of whom was just two years old. More than 60 others — including Fatoumala’s 16-year-old brother, Yagub — were injured in the blaze.
A malfunctioning electric space heater in a bedroom on the third floor of the building started the five-alarm fire, City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters.
The apartment’s front door was supposed to close automatically but didn’t, allowing the smoke to spread. Nigro said an investigation is ongoing as to whether a maintenance issue with the doors led to more deaths. He called the fire “unprecedented.”
Firefighters arrived on scene within three minutes of the first call. More than 200 firefighters ultimately responded to the blaze, which consumed much of the 19-story building, which was built in 1972.
A New York Times investigation found that the three companies that own the building purchased it in 2019 for $166 million. The companies “have been aggressively acquiring apartment complexes with many low-income tenants who used voucher rentals.”
The risk of fire-related death is almost twice as high for Black people than for those of any other race, according to the New York State Department of Health. Fifteen percent of Black fire victims are under the age of five, as compared to eight percent of white fire victims. All of the victims of the Bronx fire were Black, and most were from The Gambia, a small West African country.
Increased death and fire incidence rates are also associated with low-income populations and adults over the age of 25 who don’t have more than 12 years of schooling, according to the department. The very young and very old are also high-risk populations.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted on Sunday that she is “horrified” by the fire:
“My heart is with the loved ones of all those we’ve tragically lost, all of those impacted and with our heroic FDNY firefighters.”
The GoFundMe for Drammeh’s family can be found here.
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Justin Weiss is the The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.