Falling Debris Kills FDNY Battalion Chief When Suspected Drug Den Explodes in Bronx; 12 Others Hurt

WNBC 4 - September 28, 2016

by Marc Santia, Ida Siegal, Sarah Wallace and Lori Bordonaro

Falling Debris Kills FDNY Battalion Chief When Suspected Drug Den Explodes in Bronx; 12 Others Hurt

An FDNY battalion chief was killed by falling debris when a suspected drug den exploded in the Bronx Tuesday, leveling a two-story home and injuring at least 12 other people.

Battalion Chief Michael Fahy was a 17-year FDNY veteran and father of three. A convoy of uniformed and non-uniformed firefighters stood outside the hospital to pay their respects as he body was taken to a funeral home.

"He was on the rise. He was a star," a visibly emotional FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro reporters, adding that he knew Fahy's father - a former fire chief himself - personally.

"It's a sad day. Thankfully, this doesn't happen every day, but when it does, it doesn't make it any easier. We lost a hero today," Nigro said.

Multiple police, civilians and Con Ed workers were injured following the 7:30 a.m. blast at the private home on West 234th Street near Tibbett Avenue in Kingsbridge. About an hour before the explosion, firefighters had responded to a report of a gas smell at the location and found the drug lab, police say.

A law enforcement source tells NBC 4 New York officials believe the home was a marijuana growing operation. Flammable materials like propane are used to manufacture the drug, but the alleged pot growhouse would be the first such drug lab to blow up in the city, the law enforcement source said.

The NYPD had an ongoing investigation on that block over the last two weeks, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said.

After the FDNY found the suspected lab, it called the NYPD in to investigate but the house exploded before officers could assess the location, according to police. Correspondence on emergency radio revealed immediate concern.

"We got men down ... with an explosion," a firefighter told a dispatcher, requesting multiple ambulances on a rush. "We got a man down ... firefighter down ... bad shape."

Streets were shut down in the area as utility crews, firefighters and police cordoned off the site. Video from the scene shows the home completely demolished, the roof in shambles, partially collapsed over one of the building's sides. Piles of debris rained onto the street, covering the road and nearby parked cars.

One Instagram user said the blast "shook my whole neighborhood," adding it "felt like a bomb went off." Another neighbor said her windows shook. Still another said she felt as if there had been an earthquake.