NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Both during and after the explosion that leveled two buildings in East Harlem Wednesday, people were stepping in to help rescue people inside, and take care of the victims afterward.
As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported, Michael Lewis was up on his apartment building roof working just blocks from the explosion.
PHOTOS: Harlem Explosion
“I heard an explosion, turned around, I saw all the dust and the debris, and I ran to try to help people get out,” Lewis said.
Lewis shot video on his phone, and as he arrived on the scene, one of the buildings collapsed.
Jonathan Guzman is a security guard in the same building where Lewis works. He said the explosion blew open the front doors.
“(It was) locked,” Guzman said. “I don’t know how it flew open, but it flew open just like that — even though it was locked.”
Lewis and Guzman ran to the scene, recording what they could. They said everyone jumped in to help.
“They climbed the rubble, they was digging. There was a man with a red shirt, and another African-American man; they was digging. They got two people out by themselves,” Guzman said.
Emergency medical technicians Johnny Ross and Allen White were on the scene all day, helping from the moment they ran towards the explosion.
“They said we had a lady down. So we ran to her — me and another guy, we ran to her – I had head stabilization; we got a board and collar on her, because she said she couldn’t feel her legs” White said. “We sent her to the hospital, actually, then we started triaging a lot of patients.”
White and Ross have been saving lives for years, and they said the teamwork is incredible.
“It seems like the city’s response to events like this – you know, it seems way better over the years,” said Ross, of Midwood ambulance.
Hospitals Flooded With Injured People
Following the explosion and the heroic rescue efforts, the surviving victims were rushed from the scene – many of them shaken and in shock. More than 60 were taken to area hospitals, CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
“We assembled our emergency response team and prepared to receive patients,” said Mount Sinai Director of Emergency Management Dr. Kevin Chason. “They started coming in a few at the time.”
As 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported, doctors at the hospital said they keep in contact with city agencies, and they got ready for patients to start appearing when they heard about the buildings collapsing, they were ready.
Half of the 22 victims treated at Mount Sinai Hospital walked in on their own, while the rest were rushed to the scene by ambulance – including one woman who was found in the rubble.
“She was removed from the rubble conscious, but she had a significant head injury,” Chason said.
As of 5 p.m., that woman was still in critical, but stable, condition in the intensive care unit at the hospital.
Doctors said of all the patients treated at area hospitals, fewer than 10 were children. One was in critical condition, but the majority of the injuries were less serious.
“Cuts , bruises, lacerations, some smoke and debris inhalation that gave some people some respiratory problems or difficulty breathing, and some broken bones” were among the injuries, Chason said.
Mount Sinai late Wednesday afternoon scaled back its emergency response team. But the team remained on standby in case other victims arrived.
Meanwhile at the Harlem Hospital Center, doctors were not sure if a 15-year-old boy who was critically injured was in one of the buildings that collapsed or just nearby.
“He suffered serious injuries – internal injuries,” said Dr. Maurice Wright.
The boy also suffered broken bones and was seriously burned.
“He did verbalize some things when he first came in, but he was quite confused and severely injured,” said hospital chief of emergency Dr. Reynold Trowers.
Wright said the teen was in the operating room several hours after the explosion.
“Multiple teams are addressing his injuries, and the last check on the operating room was that he was in stable condition, but still classified as critical,” Wright said.
He said two other children brought in were stable. The hospital also treated 10 adults, many of whom were released by the evening.
A representative of Harlem Hospital Center said the hospital received 13 patients from the explosion. Three patients were children, including the 15-year-old boy in critical condition. The other two were in stable condition. The hospital said 10 adult patients, ranging in age from 20 to 79 years old, were treated and released.
A Metropolitan Hospital Center spokesperson said the hospital had received 19 patients related to building collapse. Six came by ambulance and eleven walked in on their own with minor complaints, the hospital said. All were treated and released.
Doctors said 22 people were at Mount Sinai Hospital, some of whom walked in for treatment, 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported. Most of the injuries were minor, but a doctor told Haerr the hospital had one person in critical condition with a head injury, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported. Three children were also brought to the hospital. As of late Wednesday night, all but three patients had been released.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital said it had 11 patients related to the incident. They were evaluated at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and released.
Survivors, Loved Ones Horrified
Many people were hurt or in shock following the explosion that leveled two buildings in East Harlem Wednesday, while others were searching desperately for missing loved ones.
As CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported, the American Red Cross Greater New York rushed to the aid of the dozens directly affected by the explosion Wednesday morning at Park Avenue and 116th Street, which left two people dead and more than 60 people injured – with 10 others still missing.
Late Wednesday afternoon, there were about 100 people inside P.S. 57, at 176 E. 115th St., who had been affected by the explosion. Some people had been inside the buildings that were destroyed, while others could not fine loved ones, and others still just had no place to go.
The Red Cross has made P.S. 57 it’s safe haven for anyone affected by the explosion.
Piano technician Colin Patterson was in one of the two buildings – in the Absolute Piano store at 1646 Park Ave. – when the explosion happened.
“Pianos flew out off the ground, and actually on its side,” he said. “that probably helped me too.”
Patterson said he crawled out of a fire escape to safety and had just a scratch on him, but almost nothing was left of the building.
“Even though I wasn’t hurt, I like, I was in shock,” he said.
Emergency responders took Paterson to a hospital where he was treated for head trauma.
“I don’t think it really hit me yet to tell you the truth,” Paterson told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Meanwhile, Walter Leiva could not find his aunt, Geneva Rivera, who lived in one of the two buildings. She has not answered her cell phone and was not inside the Red Cross.
“She’s not there,” Leiva said. “Like, she’s literally not there. They’re telling me my aunt is not there.”
The reception center at P.S. 57 will remain open through the night, the Red Cross said. People affected by the disaster needing assistance or shelter must come to the reception center to register.
Transportation will be provided through the night by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to a shelter run by The Salvation Army at 175 E. 125th St., between Third and Lexington avenues.
Emotional support, food and information, as well as a safe and warm place to stay, will be offered.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), whose district includes the site of the deadly explosions, said he is also working with clergy and other community leaders to assist in relief efforts. They are collecting food and clothing only, while all monetary donations have been directed to the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, people looking for loved ones are asked to call 311 for assistance.
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