Friends of Playwright Killed in Fire Raise Over $42K for Surviving Husband

By Mathew Katz on January 8, 2014 8:50am 

 Daniel McClung, left, with his husband Michael Cohen.
Daniel McClung, left, with his husband Michael Cohen.
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HELL'S KITCHEN — The family and friends of a young playwright who died in a fire in his high-rise apartment building Sunday have raised more than $42,000 to help his grieving, injured husband.

Daniel McClung, 27, died trying to flee a fire in a 20th-floor apartment at 500 W. 43rd St., in the Strand building. He and his husband Michael Cohen, 32 — who were only married in July — were found in a stairwell seven floors down from their 38th-floor apartment.

McClung and Cohen were both rushed to the hospital with severe smoke inhalation, the FDNY said. McClung was pronounced dead, but Cohen remains hospitalized at New York-Presbyterian Hospital's burn center.

“Words cannot express the magnitude of our grief over this tragedy.  As we mourn the loss of Daniel, we simultaneously are surrounding Michael with love, light and support," a group of Cohen's family and friends wrote in a statement.

"Thank you for the amazing outpouring of love, support and concern.  As Michael begins the long road to physical and emotional recovery, we ask for privacy and respect during this impossibly difficult time."

A FundAnything fundraiser, set up by the International Academy of Web Television to help Cohen recover from the devastating fire, passed $42,000 in contributions by Wednesday morning.

Friends and family also asked for donations to be made to the Northeast Animal Shelter in the name of McClung and the couple's two dogs, Schooner and Georgia, who died in the fire.

Friends and colleagues described McClung as a quiet, kind and determined playwright, eager to make his mark on the city's theater scene. 

FDNY officials said Sunday's blaze was sparked by a power cord in an apartment on the building's 20th floor.

FDNY Chief of Operations James Esposito told reporters on Monday that the couple would have survived had they stayed in their apartment as per the Strand's fire safety plan, since the building is fireproof.

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