Twenty-eight--year-old Pvt. Emmanuel Mensah, who was home after a year of serving in the Army National Guard, sacrificed his life trying to rescue his neighbors in the Bronx fire on Dec. 28.
According to authorities, it was New York City’s deadliest blaze in more than 25 years. The fire started because of a 3-year-old child playing with a kitchen stove, and quickly erupted through the 29-unit building. The child’s mother, upon hearing his screams, fled the apartment with her children and reportedly left the door open, creating a chimney effect that caused the massive blaze. Twelve people, four of whom were children, died.
Mensah reportedly went back into the building twice to rescue neighbors but “on the third time he couldn’t find his way out”, according to Mensah’s father Kwabena. “He was killed trying to pull neighbors out of his building apartment,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Dec. 30.
“Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier and a New Yorker. He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire. His heroism exemplifies the best of our city. Rest in peace,” the mayor said.
Among the victims of the #BronxFire was an incredible hero. Private Emmanuel Mensah, decorated soldier, pulled four of his neighbors out of the building and died when he went back in to save a fifth. https://t.co/hYjhHvg2le pic.twitter.com/9diiE0IWaO— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) December 30, 2017
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, “Each time someone opened a window, oxygen rushed into the building, fanning the flames. The apartment’s stairway acted like a chimney as the fire burst from the apartment, feeding the flames and allowing them to spread throughout the building.”
Spokesman Eric Durr talked about Mensah, who had just graduated from boot camp after starting in the fall in the New York National Guard and was stationed in Virginia. He was training to be a military police officer from garrison law enforcement to security in the field and was hoping to go for individual training in 2018 but fate had other plans.
“God is in control,” Kwabena told CNN. “That’s his nature: He wants to help people out. I thought as a military man he may have gotten out already. But like I said, God is in control.”
“As a father, you always have to feel sad when you get such news about your son, and I thought maybe he’s coming back,” Kwabena said. “But unfortunately it turns out the other way.”
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz