TAMPA, Fla. — Investigators are shedding new light on the deadly apartment fire that killed a local mother and her children.

The fire broke out Wednesday at the Captiva Club Apartments on Castaway Drive in Town 'n' Country.

Meralys Velazquez, 32, lived in a second-story apartment with two adult roommates. She shared a master bedroom and an attached bathroom with her two kids.

According to a newly-obtained medical examiner's report, on Wednesday morning, the adult roommates woke up to the sound of the smoke detector and realized their apartment was on fire. Velazquez walked into the hallway and said she was going to get her kids before heading back into the bedroom. That was the last time her roommates saw her alive.

Dispatchers received a 911 call at 3:23 a.m.

Responding firefighters found Velazquez and her children dead in the apartment. The children were a 5-year-old boy in kindergarten and a 10-year-old girl who was in the third grade.

This was the third fire in 3 ½ years at the same apartment complex.

10News has obtained records from the previous two fires.

A fire in 2015, which destroyed about a dozen units, also appeared to have started on a balcony. In that case, there was some uncertainty as to the cause. Fire investigators were trying to confirm whether any improperly disposed of smoking materials might have ignited that fire. But they were not able to confirm that theory, and so the cause of that fire was officially listed as “undetermined”.

In 2018, another fire appeared to start on a second-floor balcony. Again, fire officials said the damage was so extensive that they were not able to reach any conclusions about what had started it.

Now, officials are investigating the third fire.

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