Erick and Edward Marroquin were always together. The 15-year-old fraternal twins liked to read Japanese anime comics and spent weekends with their father learning about his construction business. Edward, the more outgoing twin, watched out for his brother, who had autism, family members said.
Early Thursday, flames engulfed the South Los Angeles apartment where the twins lived. Their mother, Ismenia Platero, who was pregnant, managed to escape with her three younger children — two girls and a boy — but the twins died inside the two-bedroom apartment in the 4000 block of Ursula Avenue.
The twins shared a room and often slept with their bedroom door locked and a candle burning because they did not like sleeping in the dark, said Karen Platero, a cousin who gathered with a few other relatives and friends in front of the apartment hours after the fire was extinguished.
She was awakened early Thursday by a frantic call from her Aunt Ismenia, who was screaming that her apartment was on fire and that the twins were stuck inside.
Karen Platero threw on a blue bathrobe over her pajamas and ran the one block to her aunt's apartment. When she arrived, Ismenia Platero had already gotten her three younger children safely out of the burning apartment.
Ismenia Platero ran into the back alley to try to reach the boys through their second-floor bedroom window, but to no avail. Karen Platero said she saw neighbors trying to use fire extinguishers to put out the fire.
Los Angeles Fire Department officials said it was too early to determine what caused the fire, but Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva said it was likely sparked by accident rather than arson.
The apartment was fitted with smoke detectors, but investigators had not determined whether they were working when the fire started at 3:13 a.m., he said.
After the fire was out, the twins' father, Ronald Marroquin, sat cross-legged on the front steps of the white apartment building in Crenshaw, his head bowed. When speaking of his sons, he wiped tears from his eyes and pulled a black hoodie over his head. Relatives came by to hug him as he talked.
He said the twins always hung out together.
"They would protect each other," he said.
Marroquin, who is separated from the children's mother, spent every weekend with the twins, taking them to the beach or to the bookstore to read comics. He said the boys had just celebrated their 15th birthdays in June at a barbecue in the park. He showed a cellphone photo of the twins beaming in front of a large birthday cake.
Erick was the quiet twin but always gave his cousins and aunts hugs so big that he would lift them off the ground, Karen Platero said. Edward would joke that he wanted two hugs, she said. Whenever she felt sad, Edward would come over and joke sarcastically to make her smile.
Their mother was popular in the neighborhood and always greeted people when she went on walks with her children.
"It's so terrible what happened today," said Karen Platero, still in her blue robe. "They were really good kids."