Bronx Drug Home Explosion Kills Firefighter, Injures 20

NY Daily News - September 28, 2016

by Ginger Adams Otis, Laura Dimon, Thomas Tracy, Graham Rayman

An FDNY battalion chief was killed by flying debris when a Bronx explosion tore the roof off a drug house early Tuesday, injuring another 20 people, authorities said.

Chief Michael Fahy, a 17-year fire veteran who followed his father into the department, was struck in the head and mortally injured as he stood outside the two-story home around 7 a.m.

“We had a tragedy today,” Mayor de Blasio said in announcing the death. “A tragedy has befallen a family, a fire department and our entire city.”

The blast in the Kingsbridge section came about an hour after a passerby called 911 to report an odor of gas around the home at W. 234th St. and Irwin Ave., authorities said.

“I felt something so strong, like a boom!” said local resident Porfiro Paulino, 64, who opened his window to see smoke pouring into the sky.

The rental property, an attached brick residence, was under investigation as a marijuana grow house, said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

The lone resident inside the house Tuesday exited the home when firefighters arrived. A neighbor said the current renters, unlike past years when Manhattan College students lived there, were low-key and drove high-end cars — Mercedes-Benz and BMWs. “This definitely wasn’t college students,” said Mike Garcia, 28, an electrician. “We didn't hear any commotion or see any people. We thought it was shady.”

It was unclear if the pot production contributed to the blast, and an investigation by the NYPD arson and explosion squad was underway.

“It’s a crime scene, and it will be for a few days to come,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

O’Neill said cops were in the initial stages of an investigation on the block after a tip that there was “a possible grow house” raising marijuana plants.

Nine firefighters, six police officers, three Consolidated Edison workers and two civilians were injured by the blast that threw pieces of the roof into the street and smoke billowing skyward. Fahy, whose dad Thomas was a decorated FDNY battalion chief, was struck in the head and “various other parts of the body,” said Nigro. He was the father of two boys — Michael, 11, and Cormac, 6 — and a daughter Anna Elisabeth, 8.

“One of our rising stars,” Nigro said of Fahy. “He was on the rise, he was a star, he was a brave man. ... It’s a loss, a terrible loss, not just for the Fahy family but the fire department family.”

Fahy was pronounced dead at NewYork-Presbyterian/Allen Hospital, officials said.

His parents and his widow, who rushed separately to the hospital, later returned to his Yonkers home on a street lined Tuesday with police and fire vehicles.

A priest accompanied the parents as they walked, their heads down, into the house. Neighbor Jackie Sutton choked back tears after hearing the news. “There’s nothing but kind words to be said about this man and his family,” she said. “He was just a very wonderful neighbor. He was a pleasant, pleasant man ... a model in every way.”

None of the other injuries were believed to be life-threatening. The death was the FDNY’s first in the line of duty in more than two years.

“When it exploded, 3 blocks away me and my son were in my apartment and the entire building shook,” Instagram user advocateofwordzw wrote.

Onesimo Guerrero, the owner of the residence, knew little about the blast or the current renters.

“It was a very bad accident,” he told the Daily News. “I didn’t know the people living there. It was a starter house.” Asked about the drug lab, Guerrero replied, “Nobody told me anything about that.”

More than 100 firefighters eventually responded to the blast.

The last FDNY line of duty death came in July 2014, when Lt. Gordon Matthew Ambelas died while fighting a fire in a Brooklyn high rise.