Fire Destroys New York Marina

New York Volunteers Push State on Billing and Health Benefits

FASNY continues fight for ambulance billing and cancer coverage
AARON BESECKER, The Buffalo News Published Monday, April 13, 2015

CAMBRIA - The state organization that represents volunteer firefighters says it will continue its push this year for volunteer fire companies' right to bill for ambulance services and to have more types of cancer covered by its health benefit plan.

During a regional legislative meeting at Cambria Volunteer Fire Company on Sunday, the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, or FASNY, also said it wants the state to require smoke detectors with longer-lasting batteries that cannot be removed from the device.

The measures were among nine items from the group's legislative agenda discussed among about 60 representatives of area volunteer fire companies.

Under the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law, there's a presumption that lung cancer was incurred in the firefighter's line of duty and not by the firefighter's own negligence, but the same coverage does not exist for other types of cancer which the group said also results from firefighting.

"Where's the fairness that the paid guys get it and the volunteers don't?" said Robin K. Schott, chairman of the group's Legislative Committee and volunteer with Hutchinson Hose Company in Williamsville.

The primary objection to the proposed expansion of coverage is its cost, he said. The group does not have an estimate for what such a move would cost.

On the issue of being able to charge for ambulance service, volunteer fire companies are prohibited from doing so under state law, said Marc E. Kasprzak, a past president of the Western New York Volunteer Firemen's Association, a member of the state group's Emergency Medical Services Committee and a volunteer with Shawnee Fire Company in Wheatfield.

While volunteer ambulance corps and commercial ambulance companies have the right to charge, the disparity has led some volunteer fire companies to stop providing ambulance service, which is a high-cost operation, Kasprzak said.

The push for this change, which the group says would "even the playing field," has been going on for about a decade, he said.

Bills on the expansion of cancer coverage and the right to bill for ambulance services were first introduced in 2011. The latest attempts to make the changes died in committee in both houses of the State Legislature last year, the organization said.

The state group this year is starting to push for the state to require smoke detectors that have batteries that last at least 10 years and that can't be removed from the device.

Smoke detectors remain critical life-saving equipment, as most fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or inoperable alarms, the group says.

The association anticipates some resistance because these types of smoke detectors, which are already on the market, are more expensive than the average detector.

The prices start around $20 online, and group representatives say this type of device is cheaper in the long run.

The proposal would be similar to the requirement for carbon monoxide detectors, said David J. Sweet, a member of the group's board from Penfield.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com

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CO Poisoning Claims Four in Queens Home

Car left running in the garage blamed for carbon monoxide deaths
Emergency personel gather near a home where police say four people were found dead in an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in the Queens borough of New York on Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike Balsamo)
Published Monday, April 13, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Four elderly people were found dead in a home Friday in an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in an attached garage, police said.

The victims were 83-year-old Jerry Hugel, his wife, 80-year-old Marie Hugel, 70-year-old Gloria Greco and 76-year-old Walter Vonthadden, police said. The bodies were discovered when a relative of the Hugels went to check on them because they hadn't answered the phone at their Queens home. Jerry Hugel was found next to a running car in the garage.

Neighbors lined the streets and sidewalks in the suburban Floral Park neighborhood next to Long Island's Nassau County. Some cried as police officers and firefighters walked around the Cape Cod-style, two-story home.

"They were wonderful people," Helga Harter, a neighbor who had known the couple for decades, said through tears as she stood on a street corner, looking at the home. "They were married for 60 years."

The Hugels had five children, including a son who's a New York Police Department officer, Harter said. The president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, said members' thoughts and prayers were with the family.

Harter described the Hugels as a "great family" active in the local German community. She last saw them on Wednesday at a meeting of a Bavarian dancing and cultural organization.

"I'm in shock," Harter said. "It's the greatest shock of my life."

Jerry Hugel had been the president of the Bavarian group, the Schlierachtaler Stamm, for more than 40 years until 2013, its website and a member said. He and his wife "were the backbone of everything," member Kathy Fetzer said.

Jerry Hugel moved from Germany to the U.S. in his youth, and Marie Hugel was of Austrian descent, she said. They were always ready to take on anything that needed doing for the organization and had passed the traditions on to their children, she said.

"They just held everything together and made sure it was done right," she said.

The husband was found next to the running car in the garage, and the wife was in a kitchen in the basement. The family friend was in a living room on the first floor, and the tenant was on the first floor.

Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, is created when some fuels are burned. The deaths come on the heels of other carbon monoxide exposures that killed at least 10 people on the Eastern Seaboard.

A man and his seven children were found dead Monday in Princess Anne, Maryland, where they apparently were poisoned in their sleep while running a generator after a utility cut power to their home. And a woman and her 7-year-old daughter were found poisoned Wednesday in their home in East Orange, New Jersey, where prosecutors said a utility company had shut off power and a gas generator was being used without proper ventilation.

City Councilman Mark Weprin, who represents the area including Floral Park, said he hopes the tragedy sheds light on the importance of having and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of the victims," he said in an emailed statement.

A friend of the Hugels, Elisabeth Hlawaty, said she traveled across the country with the couple to dance competitions. She said Marie Hugel had used a typewriter to help her children write their college papers.

"She was very involved, very family conscious," Hlawaty said. "She loved all of her children."

___

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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FDNY Firefighter Describes Actions at Manhattan Explosion

Bodies Recovered from Manhattan Explosion

Two bodies recovered from rubble of East Village collapse
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, background center, meets with firefighters at the site of a building explosion in the East Village neighborhood of New York, Friday, March 27, 2015. Nineteen people were injured, four critically, after the powerful blast and fire sent flames soaring and debris flying Thursday afternoon. Preliminary evidence suggested that a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building was to blame. (AP Photo/The New York Times, Nancy Borowick, Pool)
Published Monday, March 30, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — After two bodies were pulled from the rubble of a Manhattan apartment building collapse, authorities shifted their focus to what caused the massive explosion and fire and the possibility that someone may have improperly tapped a gas line serving one of the buildings.

"There's reason to believe so far that there may have been inappropriate tampering with the gas lines within the building, but until we get full evidence we can't conclude that," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said crews should reach the cellar level where the explosion took place by Monday.

"When we reach the level of the gas piping, the way the debris is removed will change so that those who will investigate the mechanics of what happened will have access to that without it being torn apart," Nigro said.

The names of the two men found Sunday were not immediately released. Authorities believe they are the two men reported missing after Thursday's explosion and fire that leveled three buildings and injured 22 people, including four critically. They were identified as Moises Lucon, 26, who worked inside a ground floor sushi restaurant, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23, a bowling alley worker who had been there on a date.

A spokesman for the Figueroa family confirmed to reporters at the city Medical Examiner's office on Sunday that Figueroa's body was pulled from the wreckage.

In August, utility workers had discovered that the gas line to the restaurant had been illegally tapped, according to Consolidated Edison. The discovery led Con Edison to shut down gas service to the building for about 10 days while the building owner made repairs. Gas service was restored after the utility deemed it safe, the utility said.

Inspectors from Con Ed visited that building about an hour before Thursday's explosion and determined work to upgrade gas service didn't pass inspection, locking the line to ensure it wouldn't be used and then leaving, officials said. The work underway was to put in a bigger line to serve the entire building, Con Ed President Craig Ivey said.

Fifteen minutes later, the sushi restaurant's owner smelled gas and called the landlord, who called the general contractor, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. No one called 911 or Con Ed.

The contractor, Dilber Kukic, and the owner's son went into the basement and opened a door, and then the explosion happened, burning their faces, Boyce said.

Kukic — who's facing unrelated charges of bribing an undercover investigator posing as a housing inspector — declined through his lawyer to comment on the circumstances surrounding the explosion. City records show Kukic got a permit last June for plumbing, flooring, removing partition walls and other work at the building.

"The focus of the investigation is not on infrastructure ... it's focusing on the work that was being done in the basement of those locations, that's what we're focusing right now," said Joseph Esposito, commissioner of the city's Office of Emergency Management.

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PHOTO GALLERIES

  • Hazardous Situation Found Months Prior to Manhattan Explosion

    Odor of gas reported in August uncovered multiple leaks from a tapped line
    A firefighter on a ladder truck directs water onto the site of an explosion and fire in the East Village neighborhood of New York, Friday, March 27, 2015. Authorities say two people are unaccounted for following an apparent gas explosion that leveled three buildings. Preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building was to blame. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    Published Sunday, March 29, 2015

    NEW YORK (AP) — More than seven months before an explosion and fire leveled three apartment buildings in Manhattan's East Village, utility workers discovered that the gas line to a restaurant in one of them had been illegally tapped, creating a hazardous situation, according to the company.

    Explosion and Collapse in Manhattan’s East Village

    On Aug. 6, a meter reader at the restaurant detected the smell of gas and reported it, said Consolidated Edison spokesman Allan Drury. A gas crew dispatched to the site found multiple leaks in a gas line that had been tapped, Drury said, adding that the restaurant was the only customer in the building authorized to receive gas.

    The discovery led Con Edison to shut down gas service to the building for about 10 days while the building owner made repairs. Gas service was restored after the utility deemed it safe, Drury said.

    City officials suspect that leaking natural gas was the source of Thursday's explosion and fire, which sparked a raging blaze that took hundreds of firefighters to quell. De Blasio visited a firehouse Saturday to thank some of them.

    Meanwhile, emergency workers painstakingly looked for signs of two missing people, scooping through piles of loose brick, wood and debris with their hands and using dogs to search the rubble. Authorities acknowledged the chances of finding either person alive were slim.

    Officials estimated it could take a week of 24-hour-a-day work to sift through the heap. "It's going to be slow and arduous," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

    Detectives issued posters seeking information on the whereabouts of the men believed to have been in the sushi restaurant on the ground floor of one of the collapsed buildings: 26-year-old Moises Lucon, who worked at the restaurant, and 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa, a bowling alley worker who had been there on a date.

    Their families showed photos of their loved ones and asked for help.

    "We have just been walking down the streets, one by one," brother Zacarias Lucon told the Daily News of New York. "We are just so exhausted and upset."

    Figueroa's relatives said they were holding out hope.

    "My brother is strong," Neal Figueroa told reporters. "Even if he is still in the rubble, I know he would still be in a predicament to get himself out, and so I'm just praying for that."

    But hope was dimming. When asked about whether anyone would have survived, city Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito said: "I would doubt that very seriously."

    As some of the several evacuated buildings near the explosion site were declared safe for residents to return, Micha Gerland stood at a police barricade and surveyed the remains of his apartment.

    "I still don't believe it," said Gerland, 37, who escaped with nothing but his wallet, phone, keys and the clothes he was wearing. "Who thinks that something like that happens?"

    Inspectors from Con Ed had visited that building about an hour before the explosion and determined work to upgrade gas service didn't pass inspection, locking the line to ensure it wouldn't be used and then leaving, officials said.

    Manhattan Explosion: Inspectors Find Faulty Work

    Fifteen minutes later, the sushi restaurant's owner smelled gas and called the landlord, who called the general contractor, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. Nobody called 911 or Con Ed.

    The contractor, Dilber Kukic, and the owner's son went into the basement and opened a door, and then the explosion happened, burning their faces, Boyce said. Kukic, who has pleaded not guilty to an unrelated charge of bribing a housing inspector, declined through his lawyer to comment on the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

    The building had an existing gas line intended to serve the sushi restaurant; the work underway was to put in a bigger line to serve the entire building, Con Ed President Craig Ivey said.

    The landlord didn't respond to calls and emails Friday and Saturday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

    ___

    Associated Press Radio Correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.

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    PHOTO GALLERIES

    Off-Duty Firefighter Scales Fire Escape at Manhattan Blast

    Manhattan Explosion: Inspectors Find Faulty Work

    Utility inspectors found faulty work in East Village building prior to blast
    New York City firefighters work the scene of a large fire and a partial building collapse in the East Village neighborhood of New York on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Orange flames and black smoke are billowing from the facade and roof of the building near several New York University buildings. (AP Photo/Suzanne Mitchell)
    Published Friday, March 27, 2015

    NEW YORK (AP) — An hour before an apparent gas explosion sent flames soaring and debris flying at a Manhattan apartment building, injuring 19 people, utility company inspectors decided the work being done there was faulty.

    The powerful blast on Thursday in the East Village caused the collapse of three buildings and fire damage to a fourth, the fire department said. It left four people in critical condition, more than a dozen others injured and one family searching for a loved one.

    Explosion and Collapse in Manhattan’s East Village

    Scroll down for audio from seven-alarm fire, Box 0436

    Firefighters worked through the night to put out pockets of fire, pouring large volumes of water over the rubble, a fire department spokesman said Friday morning as a steady rain fell.

    He said when a building collapses it takes much longer — even days — to put out all the fire.

    About 200 firefighters and medical staff remained on the scene.

    "Currently we're in the extinguishing phase, making sure there are no further fires and extinguishing the fires that are there, he said.

    The blast caused three five-story buildings to collapse within a few hours of each other, the spokesman said. A fourth, seven-story building, suffered extensive fire damage.



    Mayor Bill de Blasio said preliminary evidence suggested a gas explosion amid plumbing and gas work inside the building that collapsed was to blame. A plumber was doing work connected to a gas service upgrade, and inspectors for utility company Con Edison had been there, company President Craig Ivey said. But the work failed the inspection, partly because a space for the new meters wasn't big enough, Con Ed said.

    The state Department of Public Service was monitoring Con Ed's response.

    Restaurant diners ran out of their shoes and bystanders helped one another to escape the midafternoon blast, which damaged four buildings as flames shot into the air, witnesses said. Passers-by were hit by debris and flying glass, and bloodied victims were aided as they sat on sidewalks and lay on the ground, they said.

    Adil Choudhury, who lives a block away, ran outside when he heard "a huge boom."

    "The flames were coming out from the roof," he said. "The fire was coming out of every window."

    The flames shot as high as 50 feet into the air, witness Paul Schoengold said.



    De Blasio said it didn't appear that anyone was missing, but late Thursday Tyler Figueroa, 19, of Manhattan said his 23-year-old brother Nicholas had disappeared after going on a date at an East Village sushi restaurant that was leveled by the explosion.

    Figueroa said the couple was paying for their meal when the blast occurred, and that his date, who is in the hospital, remembers only stumbling outside before losing consciousness.

    "I just pray my brother shows up," he said. "We just hope my brother comes back."

    Police said early Friday they have no reports of a missing person.

    The explosion and fire happened a little over a year after a gas explosion in a building in East Harlem killed eight people and injured about 50. A National Transportation Safety Board report released last week said a leak reported just before the deadly blast may have come from a 3-year-old section of plastic pipe rather than a 127-year-old cast-iron segment that came under scrutiny in the immediate aftermath.

    De Blasio noted no one had reported a gas leak before Thursday's blast. Con Edison said it had surveyed the gas mains on the block Wednesday and found no leaks.

    Bystander Blake Farber, who lives around the corner, said he'd been walking by the building and smelled gas seconds before the big blast.

    Firefighters continued pouring water on the buildings, in an area of old tenement buildings that are home to students and longtime residents near New York University and Washington Square Park.

    "We are praying that no other individuals are injured and that there are no fatalities," de Blasio said.

    "It was terrifying — absolutely terrifying," said Bruce Finley, a visitor from San Antonio, Texas, who had just taken a photo of his food at a restaurant known for its French fries when he felt the explosion next door. "It just happened out of the blue. ... We were shaking even an hour, hour and a half later."

    The explosion was so forceful it blew the door off a cafe across an avenue and left piles of rubble on the sidewalk. Finley said his son helped to lift debris off a man so he could escape the restaurant where they had been eating.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Colleen Long, Jonathan Lemire, Mike Balsamo, Kiley Armstrong and Stephanie Siek contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    10-60 Box 0436, Part 1

    10-60 Box 0436, Part 2

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    PHOTO GALLERIES

    Explosion and Collapse in Manhattan’s East Village

    Building collapses amid flames and smoke injuring several people
    New York City firefighters work at the scene of a large fire and a partial building collapse in the East Village neighborhood of New York on Thursday, March 26, 2015, in New York, after an apartment building on fire near New York University collapsed on Thursday. Two nearby buildings began burning and firefighters said at least 12 people were hurt, three critically, and other people were being evaluated at the scene. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
    Published Thursday, March 26, 2015

    NEW YORK (AP) — An apartment building collapsed in a fiery burst of rubble on Thursday and flames spread to nearby buildings in what officials said appeared to be a gas-related explosion, injuring at least a dozen people and scattering debris across surrounding streets in the heart of Manhattan's trendy East Village.

    Mayor Bill de Blasio said the blast appeared to have been caused by plumbing and gas work inside one building. Inspectors from utility Con Edison had been there to check on a planned gas meter installation about an hour before the fire, but they decided the building wasn't ready for gas to be introduced, company President Craig Ivey said.

    Orange flames billowed and smoke could be seen and smelled for miles after the blaze, in an area of old tenement buildings that are home to students and longtime residents in an area near New York University and Washington Square Park.

    About 250 firefighters converged to fight the flames, and the fire department's commissioner said a second building was "in danger of possible collapse" and four buildings were affected in all.

    Firefighters said at least 12 people were hurt, three critically, some with burns to their airways. De Blasio said it didn't appear that anyone was missing.

    "We are praying that no other individuals are injured and that there are no fatalities," he said.

    The fire happened a little over a year after a gas explosion in a building in East Harlem killed eight people and injured about 50. De Blasio noted that no one had reported a gas leak to authorities before Thursday's blast.

     



    The area was evacuated, and the city's health department advised residents to keep their windows closed because of the smoke.

    Adil Choudhury, who lives a block away, ran outside when he heard "a huge boom."

    "Already there was smoke everywhere" when he saw the building, he said. "The flames were coming out from the roof. The fire was coming out of every window."

    Items from a ground-floor sushi restaurant were blown into a street, and the explosion was so forceful that it blew the door off a cafe across the avenue. Rubble, glass and debris littered sidewalks.

    Con Ed crews planned to start investigating after firefighters got the blaze under control. The state Department of Public Service was monitoring Con Ed's response, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

    Area resident Paul Schoengold said he was walking about two blocks away when he heard an "incredibly loud" roar.

    "Then the fire started. I could see the flames on the roof, and they kept getting higher," shooting perhaps 50 feet into the air, he said.

    As freelance photographer Michael Seto ran up to the buildings after hearing the explosion in his apartment a block and a half away, flames were spreading and engulfing one building's first floor.

    Meanwhile, a man was climbing up the fire escape, not down, he said.

    "People were calling to him that the building's on fire — he needs to get down," and he did, Seto said.

    Other witnesses said a woman scrambled down her fire escape in the moments after the explosion. She stopped on the second floor, afraid to go further, and passers-by climbed up to help get her down.

    In the aftermath, one person was lying on the ground, being attended to by two to three passers-by who were holding his head still, Seto said. A woman was sitting on the curb with blood coming down her face, and another woman walked past him with blood on her face, he said.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Tom Hays, Verena Dobnik and Kiley Armstrong contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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