By Ben Fractenberg, Olivia Scheck and Nicole Bode
CHELSEA — A month after being rescued from the icy waters of the Hudson River, Chloe the German shepherd was killed in a fire overnight when her owner's houseboat caught on fire early Friday, Coast Guard officials said.
Chloe and owner Mark Stoss, 42, lived aboard a catamaran that had been docked at Pier 59 on the Hudson River near West 17th Street for more than a year before Friday's tragedy.
In a bedside interview in an emergency room at Bellevue Hospital, where he was brought to be treated for smoke inhalation, Stoss recounted the nightmare.
He said he had been sleeping when the fire broke out in the early hours of Friday morning. He happened to wake up about 2:30 a.m., and saw smoke gathering at the opposite end of the catamaran, he said. When he got up and opened the door to the boat, smoke immediately rushed in and filled the cabin.
Stoss said he immediately took two big, deep breathes and rushed back inside to save Chloe.
But the smoke was too thick, and he was forced back outside.
"My lungs were on fire," he said, adding that the smoke was so thick "it was like cement." He said he couldn't breathe and couldn't see his dog through the haze.
The blaze spread from Stoss' 35-foot cabin cruiser to a second boat docked nearby, and the fire was eventually brought under control by 4:30 a.m., officials said. Fire officials said they were still investigating the cause of the blaze.
Stoss' catamaran sank into the river, said Charles Rowe, public affairs officer for the New York sector of the Coast Guard.
Sunken remnants of the catamaran could be seen from the land, and the damaged second boat, "Roman Holiday," remained beside it in the dock, charred and blackened from the fire.
The owner of the Roman Holiday, Steve Roman, 66, lives in Morristown, N.J., but came to the pier with his wife Friday afternoon to see how much damage his boat had sustained.
"I put on the CBS news at 6:30 a.m. and I actually see our boat is next to the one that's burning," said Roman."Our boat is totally finished."
Roman said he didn't know Stoss well, but said they had exchanged "hello's" and that Stoss' dog was friendly.
"The good part is A, we heard the owner has smoke inhalation but thank god will live and fully recover and B, the other thing is that they make new boats everyday," Roman said, adding that he plans to buy a new boat and call it "Roman Holiday II."
Chloe's first, happier appearance in the media spotlight came last month, when she fell off Stoss' boat into the icy Hudson River on Jan. 7. Stoss found her in the water on his way back to the boat around 10 a.m. He leapt into the river to rescue her and had to be pulled out alongside her by NYPD divers.
Chloe was unharmed in the earlier incident, and had to swim 50 yards around the boat before she was rescued.
Stoss also said that until a couple of weeks ago, he had had another dog who "was no longer with us." He didn't elaborate.
Stoss said he and his fiancée, Isabel Anaya, had been planning to take an around-the-world trip on the boat in about a month.
The docks are located behind the Chelsea Piers gym and recreation complex on the West Side Highway.