NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two young children were tossed out a window from a burning building into the arms of neighbors below after a fire broke out Thursday on Staten Island, injuring more than 30 people, authorities and witnesses said.
About 200 firefighters responded to the fire that broke out about 1 a.m. on Chestnut Avenue. The five-alarm blaze quickly spread through three, two-story townhouses.
Anthony DiSimone and his fiancee, Darleen Cerzosie, live three doors down from the home.
“I smelled smoke, and I went in the back yard and saw the fire,” Cerzosie told CBS 2’s Don Champion.
DiSimone said parents screamed from a second floor window.
“I saw the father at the top, on the second floor… and he was just screaming ‘Grab my son!'” DiSimone said. “He was dangling his son out the window and I went underneath him to try and get a good angle on the child. He dropped his boy.”
DiSimone said he caught the child.
“Then he was worried about his daughter, and he’s like ‘I have a daughter! I have a daughter!” Cerzosie said. “I was like, ‘I’m right here, I’m right here, let her go, let her go, I’ll catch her, don’t worry, don’t worry.'”
Cerzosie caught the daughter, hurting her arm in the process.
The kids, believed to be 5 and 3, were treated by emergency officials and seemed to be OK but shaken up, DiSimone said.
“I saw this guy needed help. I guess regular human conscience kicks in,” DiSimone told Don Champion. “If I was up there with a child, he would have done the same for me so you really don’t think too much, you just act.”
“Just take the chance, that’s what we both did,” said Cerzosie. “We didn’t think, we just acted.”
“They were fine, but of course they are going to take the kids to the hospital just to look them over,” DiSimone told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern.
“The children were good, we kept them dry and diverted their attention from the house and said ‘don’t worry, mommy and daddy are going to be OK,'” Cerzosie told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.
The children’s parents had to be rescued by firefighters.
The fire was so intense it took crews more than four hours to get it under control. Neighbors who evacuated their homes as a precaution watched anxiously.
“I don’t know what to do, I might lose everything,” said neighbor Elliott Rodriguez.
In all, the FDNY said 23 firefighters and 11 civilians suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious. Nearly all were taken to the hospital but none of the injuries are considered life-threatening. Most are related to smoke inhalation, Champion reported..
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The Red Cross is assisting victims of the fire with temporary housing.
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