Firefighter Killed Battling Blaze in Williamsburg
NEW YORK CITY — A firefighter hailed as a hero for saving a young Brooklyn boy's life was killed battling a blaze in Williamsburg Saturday night — the first line-of-duty death for the department in more than two years, officials said.
Lt. Gordon Ambelas, a 14-year veteran from Staten Island assigned to Ladder 119 in Williamsburg, was searching for fire and survivors at 75 Wilson St., near Bedford Avenue, just after 9 p.m. when he became trapped, according to the FDNY.
The 40-year-old father of two, who was promoted 10 months ago to lieutenant, was rushed from the 19th floor of the building to Woodhull Hospital, where he died.
"Tonight, New York City and the FDNY suffered a terrible and tragic loss when one of our bravest, Lt. Gordon Ambelas, died while trying to save lives at a second-alarm fire here in Brooklyn," Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
"We have lost a real hero tonight."
The fatal fire erupted because an air conditioner's power cord had become pinched between a bed frame and a wall, FDNY officials said.
According to the mayor, Ambelas led the members of his unit into the building, "searching for anyone who may have been trapped inside," but the fire flashed, trapping him in a bedroom.
"While doing this dangerous job, Lt. Ambelas became trapped in the fire," de Blasio said.
Fellow firefighters found him unconscious and tried to revive him but were unable.
"I ask every New Yorker to keep Lt. Ambelas in your prayers," the mayor said.
Two civilians and two other firefighters suffered minor injuries as a result of the blaze, which took about an hour to bring under control.
The cause of Ambelas' death was under investigation.
Ambelas is the first firefighter killed in the line of duty since Richard Nappi, who died battling a massive warehouse fire in Bushwick in April 2012.
Nappi, who survived the 9/11 attacks, was overcome by the intense smoke and heat of the fire at 930 Flushing Ave.
Fire officials had hailed Ambelas as a hero this spring for helping save a 7-year-old boy, Mendy Gottlieb, from a roll-down gate on May 8.
Gottlieb had been playing on the gate on Skillman Street when his head and arm got stuck and he was pulled 15 feet off the ground.
Ambelas was among the rescuers who helped remove the boy within 15 minutes, fire officials said.
“[This incident] shows that FDNY members are always ready to help others. It was great teamwork all around,” Ambelas said at the time, according to a statement from the FDNY.
In the wake of the firefighter's death, the boy's family extended their condolences.
“We were shocked and devastated to hear about the tragic death of Lt. Ambelas, the savior of our child Mendy," they said in a statement, released by the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. "He literally sacrificed his life for others."
He and members of his unit, as well as Engine 211 and Rescue 2, were recognized with plaques for their heroism.
Ambelas, nicknamed "Matt" by colleagues and who is survived by his wife Nanette and their two children, began his carreer with the FDNY in February 2000 and served primarily in Ladder 81 in Staten Island.
For the past several months he had worked at Ladder 119, the mayor's office said.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened at the loss of one of our own—a devoted, veteran firefighter who had an enormous love for his job and our mission to help and save others,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.