A neighbor described her as an intelligent, self-sufficient child, who walked and played freely in and around her Mount Pleasant apartment building.

But Thursday night, 9-year-old Yhesse Alvarez, blind from birth, bit into the cord of a portable fan and electrocuted herself.

"It was an accident that no one was prepared for," said Titu Chavez, who lives next door to the Alvarezes. "She never saw what she put in her mouth."

Police were summoned about 8:30 p.m. to the 16th Street apartment when neighbors heard Francisco Alvarez crying that his daughter was dead. Rosa Alvarez, Yhesse's mother, was away at work.

Francisco Alvarez said yesterday that he was in the kitchen at the front of the small apartment and Yhesse and her 8-year-old sister Rosemary were playing in a bedroom down a short hall from the living room when Yhesse apparently tried to chew on the fan's cord. She was pronounced dead at Children's Hospital about 10:30 p.m.

Chavez described Yhesse as an active girl who was escorted by one of her parents each morning to the bus that took her to the Tyler Elementary School, which has a special education program for handicapped youngsters.

And each afternoon, one of her parents would take her to swing on a playground across the street from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the heart of Mount Pleasant.

Yhesse's death saddened residents of the four-story complex, who gathered around Francisco yesterday to comfort him at the front entrance.

"We are like a family here," said Chavez. Most of the residents of the apartment are Hispanic; the Alvarezes, who neighbors said moved into the complex more than four years ago, immigrated from El Salvador.