Tearful Reunion of Queens Family and Firefighters after Devastating Blaze that Killed Three

NY Daily News - August 11, 2019

by ELLEN MOYNIHAN and CATHY BURKE

It was the “first happy day” for a Queens family since a devastating arson killed three relatives.

In a moving reunion Saturday, firefighters from Engine 316 in Corona were hugged and thanked by tearful relatives still grieving Elizabeth Rodriguez, 35, her daughter Emma Dominguez, 6, and father Claudio Rodriguez, 76.

And the firefighters got their first look, via FaceTime, of 10-month-old fire survivor Liam Dominguez since firefighter Steve Keenan lifted him from his burned mother’s arms and brought him out of the flames at the 93rd St. house on July 10.

“This is the first happy day we’ve had in a month,” said relative Denise Moreno, 43.

The reunion also included Elizabeth Rodriguez’s nephews Devin Moreno, 24, and Alberto Ramirez, 23, as well as her sister Rafelina Moreno, 49, and brother-in-law Raul Moreno, 51, the owners of the home that was set ablaze by an unstable young man they’d welcomed just days earlier.

“Thank you for rescuing my baby cousin,” Denise Moreno’s son, Junior Packer, 7, told Captain Tom Sussman, and firefighters Joseph Lombardi, Manuel Costa, Lawrence Young and Keenan, the first team to respond to the raging blaze.

Denise Moreno said it was too wrenching to watch news clips of the fire for “a couple of weeks,” but she finally saw the image of Keenan cradling Liam in a blanket at the doorway of the burning home, and began the family’s search to find and thank him.

“He started screaming right away when we administered the CPR,” Keenan told the Daily News. “That was a good sign.”

“Amazing, there’s no words to say thank you," Denise Moreno said through tears. "How do you say thank you to firefighter Keenan? He saved Liam. He saved him.”

“We’re so happy too, you have no idea," responded Sussman.

Keenan, who’s been at Engine 316 for two years, called it “amazing to see the family and hear the baby is going to survive.”

He said the firebug, 23-year-old David Abreu-Nunez, who also died in the blaze, “lit the entire foyer on fire, and then at the foot of the stairs leading upstairs.” Firefighters found victim Claudio Rodriguez and Abreu-Nunez together and think they were fighting.

Elizabeth Rodriguez was at the front door with Liam in her arms, Keenan said.

Liam, initially given a slim chance of survival, is now on a long road to recovery at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Texas — cared for members of the family who are rotating stints at the baby’s bedside. He’ll be hospitalized for another seven months, the relatives said — and faces more surgeries.

“I just want to say thank you,” Raul Moreno told the firefighters. “He’s pulling through, thank God. I don’t know what else to say.” Then shaking his head, he told them: “Thank you for your service.”

FDNY Queens Borough Commander Edward Baggott also stopped in at the reunion to thank the engine company and to wish the family well.

“Your presence here helps all of them too,” Baggott said of the firefighters.