The city’s deadliest blaze in more than a quarter-century killed at least 12 people — including a year-old child — in a Bronx apartment building Thursday night, officials said.
Authorities feared the death toll could rise from the four-alarm fire, which began at 6:51 p.m. and gutted 2363 Prospect Ave. in the Belmont neighborhood near the Bronx Zoo.
The Federalist Papers Project reports:
Among those killed during a Bronx apartment fire Thursday night was an Army National Guard soldier who rushed in and out of the building, saving as many lives as he could before becoming trapped in the inferno.
Emmanuel Mensah was home for the holidays after completing basic training.
Mensah escorted friends of his father, a married couple and their four children, out of the building before going back in and pulling four more people to safety, according to Business Insider. He then went back in to look for more victims before perishing.
New York Post reports:
“That’s his nature,” said Kwabena Mensah, 62, whose son Emmanuel died when the Belmont building went up in flames.
“He was trying to help people out from the fire, and unfortunately he lost his life. He tried to do his best.”
[…] Emmanuel was one of 12 to lose their lives in the fire, the deadliest since the 1990 Happy Land Social Club arson took 87 lives less than a mile away.
“I understand when the fire was [going] he was trying to rescue . . . he had two or three people out,” the father told The Post, tears of loss and pride welling in his eyes. “He just came for the holidays,” he said of Emmanuel, who was staying in an apartment with friends.
“He helped his roommate’s wife and children, they were trying to come out to the stairs and he stopped them.”
“He told them to come out the window . . . Then he went in and tried to rescue people out.”
Emmanuel’s body was recovered from another apartment according to Emmanuel’s father, who described his son to the New York Post as “calm and lovely.”
Emmanuel’s family immigrated to the US from Ghana five or six years ago, according to Kwabeno.
Shortly after making the move, Emmanuel told his father he wanted to join the Armed Forces.
New York Post reports:
“When he came here he just said, ‘Dad, I want to join the Army,’ ” he recalled.
“At first I didn’t agree with him, but I decided that’s his choice.”
The father, who lives next door to the now-gutted building, had spent much of Thursday and Friday visiting hospitals, waiting for word from his son and holding out hope he was still alive.
“I came home praying for something good, but unfortunately it’s bad,” he said. “He never made it out.”
Authorities say Mensah is believed to have died of smoke inhalation. He was 28 years old.
Another victim of the #Bronxfire, Emmanuel Mensah, a 28 yr old US Army solider, was home for the holidays. His father told @LSchmidtFox5 he died trying to help others get to safety @fox5ny 5pm pic.twitter.com/dkIL6ylTKF
— Stacey Delikat (@StaceyDelikat) December 29, 2017
The fire was New York City’s deadliest blaze since 1990, when a Bronx nightclub fire killed 87 people.
It was believed the fire was started by a toddler playing with a stove on the first floor.
Business insider reports:
Four children were among the 12 people who died in the fire, which is suspected to have occurred a few minutes before 7 p.m., after a 3-year-old boy played with burners on a stove inside an apartment on the first floor, New York Fire Department’s commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said during a news conference.
Four people were critically injured from the fire and were “fighting for their lives,” Nigro said.
“It seems like a horrible, tragic accident,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview with WNYC radio.
The fire quickly spread upward in the five-story building. Over 160 firefighters responded to the incident. By 10 p.m., the fire was under control.
Emmanuel is truly a hero by nature. His choice to serve his country demonstrates that he was ready to put others’ lives before his own, as his final moments at the burning building prove.