Feuerwehr-Tragödie bei Brand in New York

Drei Angehörige der Löschmannschaften durch Explosionen in Eisenwarenladen getötet - Über 50 Menschen verletzt

Bei mehreren Explosionen während eines Großbrandes in einem Eisenwarengeschäft in New York sind am Sonntag drei Feuerwehrleute ums Leben gekommen und über 80 weitere Menschen verletzt worden. Nach Angaben der Feuerwehr explodierten Propangastanks und Lackbehälter, die im Keller gelagert waren. Die Vorderfront und das Dach des Gebäudes stürzten ein. Bei den Verletzten handelt es sich großenteils um Feuerwehrleute, Polizisten und Angehörige von Rettungsdiensten. Ein Feuerwehrmann schwebt in Lebensgefahr.
Bei einer Pressekonferenz in einem Krankenhaus gab Oberbürgermeister Rudolph Giuliani bekannt, dass alle drei Todesopfer Familienväter waren. Der 50-jährige Harry Ford und der 46-jährige Brian Fahey hatten je drei Kinder, der 40 Jahre alte John Downing zwei.
In den USA wurde am Sonntag der offizielle Vatertag begangen. «Ich kann mir keinen tragischeren Vatertag vorstellen», sagte Giuliani. «Ein ruhiger Sonntag hat sich sehr rasch in eine entsetzliche Tragödie verwandelt», sagte der Leiter der städtischen Feuerwehren, Thomas von Essen.
Der Brand wurde gegen 14.20 Uhr gemeldet und war Stunden später noch nicht gelöscht. Die Serie der Explosionen setzte ein, als die Feuerwehr schon 20 Minuten an dem Schauplatz im Stadtteil Queens war. Ford und Downing wurden unter Trümmern begraben, als die Hausfassade und das Dach herunterbrachen. Fahey fiel in den Keller, war stundenlang eingeschlossen und starb. Der 41-jährige Feuerwehrmann Joseph Vosilla wurde in kritischem Zustand ins Krankenhaus eingeliefert.
Der Laden befindet sich im Erdgeschoss eines zweigeschoßigen Gebäudes. Der 27-jährige Cleavon Wills, der über dem Geschäft wohnt, spielte zurzeit des Unglücks in einer benachbarten Kirche die elektronische Orgel. «Es klang, als wäre ein Haus gesprengt worden», sagte er. «Ich glaubte, das ganze Haus wäre eingestürzt.» Die Kirchenbesucher seien von ihren Sitzen gefallen. «Feuerwehrleute lagen unter einem Haufen Ziegelsteine», berichtete er weiter. «Sie waren bewusstlos und voll Blut, und ihre Mäntel waren zerrissen.»
Andere Feuerwehrleute waren von der Wucht der Explosionen über die Straße geschleudert worden. Ein Feuerwehrangehöriger sagte, es habe ausgesehen wie auf einem Kriegsschauplatz. Über 350 Feuerwehrleute und 70 Rettungswagen waren im Einsatz.
Vorsichtshalber wurden die Bewohner der umliegenden Häuserblöcke evakuiert. Der 55-jährige Anwohner Spiro Colovos erzählte, er habe zunächst eine Anzahl von Knallen und dann eine große Detonation gehört. Er sei zum Schauplatz gerannt und habe gesehen, wie Feuerwehrleute dabei waren, das Leben von Verletzten durch Herzmassage zu retten.

© AP

Eight Fatherless After Blasts Rip Queens Building, Killing Three FDNY Bravest
Rescuers Had Early Radio Contact With Trapped Firefighter

Father's Day turned tragic in Queens Sunday afternoon when an explosion at a building fire killed three New York City firefighters who leave behind eight children and left a fourth fighting for his life, officials said. At least 80 other emergency workers were injured, officials said. The blast tore through the hardware store and apartment building on Astoria Blvd. Sunday afternoon, showering bricks down on dozens of firefighters and rocking those inside.

Firefighter Harry Ford, 50, a 27-year veteran assigned to Rescue 4 in Queens , and his partner, Firefighter Brian Fahey, 46, a 14-year veteran also from Rescue 4, were killed when the facade of the building rained down on them. They were venting windows when the blast occurred. Both were quickly pulled from the rubble and taken to Elmhurst Hospital where they were pronounced dead, officials said. Firefighter John Downing, 40, an 11-year veteran assigned to Ladder 163 in Queens, was inside the building when the propane tanks and paint exploded in the basement of the hardware store.

14th Division Deputy Chief Terrence Roche told Firehouse.com News late Sunday that Downing was "blown" into the basement. He added that there was radio contact with Downing for a short period after the explosion but "then we lost contact." Downing was "trapped for a number of hours," according to an FDNY press information officer.

All three men were married. Ford leaves behind three children - a daughter, 24, and two sons ages 10 and 12. Fahey has 3-year-old twin boys and an 8-year-old son. Downing leaves a 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. "I can't think of a more tragic Father's Day," city Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said at a press conference at Elmhurst Hospital late Sunday night.

Firefighter Joseph Vosilla of Ladder 116 was listed in critical condition late Sunday at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. A hospital spokesperson said he underwent emergency surgery. Vosilla was "blasted out of the front of the building," according to Roche. He was suffering from a pelvic fracture and serious internal injuries. Another firefighter, Lieutenant Brendan Manning, was in serious condition at Cornell University Hospital. Roche said he was suffering from second and third degree burns to the face and a jaw fracture.

Sources on the scene said an explosion happened as crews began to battle the blaze, leveling one side of the building. Five alarms were called to the scene, in addition to multiple special calls for relief and support crews. A firefighter on the scene said four engines, three trucks, a squad and a rescue from the first alarm had all arrived and were going to work when the blast occurred. A second alarm had just been, or was about to be dispatched. All five of the city's Rescues were on the scene, firefighters said. More than 300 firefighters were on the scene, as well as multiple emergency medical and law enforcement units. By 2:30 a.m. Monday, just over 12 hours after the blaze started, the debris continued to smolder but the fire was considered extinguished and most of the firefighters first on the scene had been relieved.

Dozens of Rescue Personnel Injured. Some 80 emergency workers were injured, with at lesst 62 transported to area hospitals, officials on the scene late Sunday said. The transported included 54 firefighters, five police officers and three EMS workers, Some of the injuries occurred during the rescue efforts. Others were treated on the scene. Three civilians were also injured. Elmhurst Hospital in Queens bore the brunt of the firefighters injured. A hospital spokesperson said 19 firefighters were transported there, including the three dead. Fifteen firefighters were transported to New York Presbyterian Hospital, a hospital spokesperson said. Four went to Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens and four were taken to New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens for smoke inhalation and were expected to be treated and released. Additional information on the other rescuer victims was still being gathered. Neighborhood resident Spiro Colovos, 55, said he heard the explosions, ran to the scene and saw firefighters administering CPR to their colleagues. "They looked like they were in terrible shape," he told the Associated Press. The two-story housed the Long Island General Supply Company, a hardware store, and had apartment units on the second floor, the Associated Press reported. "It sounded like a charge when they detonate a building to demolish it," said Cleavon Wills, 27, who lives in an apartment above the store and was playing keyboard in the Lighthouse Church, located next door to the hardware store. "I thought the whole building had collapsed."

HEATHER CASEY, DAVE J. IANNONE, PETER MATTHEWS and LON SLEPICKA- Firehouse.com News