NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The 12 people who lost their lives in a deadly apartment building fire in the Bronx have all been identified, including one man who is being hailed a hero by his family members.
As CBS2’s Erin Logan reported, they were aware of how brave he was, but when the family of 28-year-old Emmanuel Mensah arrived at the scene of the fast-moving fire Thursday night, they couldn’t believe the stories they heard.
His younger sister told Logan she’s proud of him, yet upset he kept going back inside the burning building to save others.
A brother, son, nephew and, mostly importantly, a hero – that’s how the family will remember him.
PHOTOS: 12 Dead In Bronx Fire
“He’s always had that nature that I’m going to help people,” sister Vanessa Mensah said.
Mensah, a native of Ghana, was a member of the Army National Guard.
He was staying with a family on the first floor of the five-story Belmont apartment building, when the deadly fire broke out.
His uncle, Twun Bredu, said before firefighters arrived, he saved the family of six, including four young children.
The husband and wife told Bredu they were trying to go out the front door, but Mensah pulled them back into the room. Bredu said the family made their way out through a fire escape, as Mensah started helping other people.
“According to those who saw him, he came out about three times helping people out, and then the fourth time he went back to help, he didn’t come back,” he said.
“I’m proud of him, but then at the same time, I’m still horrified. It comes and it goes,” said Vanessa.
Bredu said the family his nephew saved has been friends with their family for a number of years. He knows just how sad they feel for him, as if they lost a family member too.
“We are almost a family,” said Bredu. “I would say they are very grateful.”
Officials say the city’s deadliest fire in decades was caused by a 3-year-old boy playing with burners on a stove in a first floor apartment of the building on Prospect Avenue and 185th Street. His mother ran out of the apartment without shutting the door.
Also killed were family members Karen Francis, 37, Charmela Francis, 7, Kylie Francis, 2, and Shantay Young,19, as well as Maria Batiz, 58, and her 7-month-old granddaughter, Amora Vidal. Solomon Donkor, 49, Hannah Donkor, 17, and William Donkor were also killed, along with Justice Opoku, 54 and Gabriel Yaw Sarkooie, 48.