Two of New York’s Finest are in critical condition after a fire ripped through the 13th floor of 2007 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. The fire appears to have been set on purpose, when someone ignited a mattress.
NYPD Housing cops Rosa Rodriguez, 36, and Dennis Guerra, 38, were the first on the scene 12:30 p.m., and took the elevator to the 13th floor.
When the elevator doors opened, they were engulfed thick, black smoke. They took a few steps out before falling to the ground and suffering smoke inhalation.
A recording of the police radio broadcasts posted to YouTube captures the terrifying moments after Rodriguez and Guerra took on the smoke.
“85! 85!” Guerra breathlessly shouts into the radio after the elevator doors open, indicating a call for assistance. Rodriguez is also heard giving the location through gasps. Other officers began scrambling to the location from across the command.
“Can’t breathe! Can’t breathe!” shouted Guerra. Moments later he shouted his location – “13!”
It was the last communique from either Guerra or Rodriguez. The dispatcher’s calls to “housing portable” – the designation for Rodriguez and Guerra – were met with long moments of silence.
Another housing officer who had been watching on the building’s surveillance cameras directed other police and the FDNY to their location.
“They were heading upstairs and as soon as the elevator doors opened the smoke went in there. So they should be in there. They never had the time to come out,” the officer told her colleagues over the radio. Her view of them was cut off as soon as the smoke rolled into the elevator’s cab.
Firefighters first checked the elevators, but found them empty. The victims had made it a few steps out before collapsing.
As firefighters headed to the floor to rescue them, police coordinated an escort for the EMS to hospitals. The road to the Belt Parkway was shut down, as was the highway itself.
Guerra was taken first to Coney Island Hospital. A helicopter landed on Lincoln High School’s field nearby, which was used to airlift Guerra to Jacobi Medical Center.
Both cops remain in critical condition. The Daily News reports:
A hyperbaric chamber was being used to treat Rodriguez, a mother of four, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell. Her esophagus was burned, sources said.
Doctors at Jacobi were treating Guerra, a father of four, officials said.
The New York Times reports:
The police said that a mattress, found burned in the hallway, appeared to have played a role in the blaze, which drew more than 70 firefighters.
… The fire was brought under control by 1:30 p.m., the Fire Department said. Three firefighters and nine residents were treated at the scene; one resident was hospitalized at Coney Island Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The building was not evacuated.
The New York Post is reporting that someone had intentionally lit a mattress on fire in the hallway.
A resident who saw the blaze through her apartment peephole said someone had lit a mattress in the hallway, sparking the blaze.
“Housing usually comes in the morning and takes trash down. Today, someone pulled out a mattress from a back stairwell and didn’t bring it down,’’ said 13th-floor resident Yolanda Vargas.
“By the time I looked through my peephole, all I could see was flames,” Vargas said.
“I went to the back window, opened the window and waited for the firefighters to tell us what to do,” she said.
A woman and a young man who appeared to be around 15 were taken from the scene by officers for questioning, sources said.
The Daily News reports that a suspect was in custody as of late Sunday night.