Man critical after fire rips through couple’s apartment


A blaze ripped through a Spuyten Duyvil co-op early on Oct. 5, sending an elderly couple to the Jacobi Medical Center with serious injuries and charring the apartment that’s been their home for close to 50 years.

The husband remained at the hospital in critical condition as of Tuesday afternoon. Jacobi patient relations personnel said his wife had been discharged.

Eighty firefighters from Engine 52 and Ladder 52 responded to 735 Kappock St. at 7:43 a.m. because of a “high-rise” alarm used to detect fires on upper floors.

Fire officials said the blaze originated in the couple’s living room and was under control by 8:12 a.m.

Firefighter Theodore Thoms discovered the man collapsed near the front door of his apartment. Mr. Thoms pulled him out of the apartment and firemen carried him down to medical personnel who gave him an oxygen mask, neighbors said.

Mr. Thoms said he found the wife “semi-conscious” in the bedroom. He escorted her out after she “basically collapsed in my arms.”

“He was bleeding from the back of the head as if he’d fallen. I didn’t really see. We were moving really quickly, the whole firehouse really pushed to get them out fast,” said Mr. Thoms, who has been assigned to Ladder 52 for five years.

Both suffered “serious injuries,” according to an FDNY spokesman.

Enrique Acosta, the building’s superintendent for 14 years, said the husband, who was in his 80s, was injured after trying to extinguish the flames.

“He could not move. It was in his face. She was OK,” Mr. Acosta said of the wife, who he said was in her 70s.

The pair was one of the first families to move into the building five decades ago, neighbors said.

Fire Marshal Robert Cox said the fire appeared to be an accident, but said officials were still investigating what sparked the flames.

An insurance investigator inspecting the apartment, who refused to disclose his name, said he believed the fire was “electrical in nature” and had something to do with the wires connected to the portable air conditioning unit. After the fire, the unit could be seen, turned upside down near the entrance of the living room with melted electrical cords.

Three picture windows overlooking the Hudson River were ripped out and jagged glass lined the charred window frame. Black soot covered dozens of bowling trophies, cups, candleholders and collectibles sitting on glass shelves behind a bar in the living room.

Most of the kitchen was marred by black burn marks from the fire, as was the dining room, which connects to the living room.

“I’m concerned because the man is frail. I saw him just yesterday,” said neighbor Ellen Helinka hours after the fire broke out. “If you look at it, it’s complete devastation.”