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Update: FDNY Lieutenant Killed in Brooklyn High Rise, Electrical Cord to Blame

Update: Fire marshals: Cause of fire that took Lt. Ambelas’s life: an air conditioner electrical cord pinched between a bed frame & wall.

Lt. Gordon Ambelas (FDNY Photo)
Lt. Gordon Ambelas (FDNY Photo)

MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — New York firefighters were mourning the death of a 40-year-old lieutenant killed when he became trapped while looking for victims in a public-housing high-rise fire Saturday, the first to die in the line of duty in more than two years.

Lt. Gordon Ambelas died after suffering multiple injuries while on the 19th floor of the 21-story building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, officials said.

“We lost a real hero tonight and our hearts are heavy,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the 14-year veteran of the force. “I ask every New Yorker to keep the lieutenant in their prayers.”

Watch: Procession from Brooklyn to Staten Island

Watch: Mayor Press Conference Announcing LODD

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters that Ambelas sustained multiple injuries after he went into an apartment on fire to look for victims. He was found unconscious inside of the apartment and was removed by fellow firefighters, de Blasio said.

“Ambelas went into the apartment to search for life and did not come out, and by the time his brother firefighters found him, it was too late for him,” Nigro said.

It is the department’s first line of duty death since Lt. Richard A. Nappi was killed fighting a Brooklyn warehouse blaze in April 2012. Ambelas is the 18th to die since 343 firefighters perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Ambelas, a married father of two daughters from Staten Island, was among the firefighters honored last month for helping to save a 7-year-old boy who became trapped in a roll-down gate in May. The boy was pulled 15 feet off the ground when his arm and head got stuck.

Ambelas said at the time that the incident “shows that FDNY members are always ready to help others. It was great teamwork all around.”

Firefighters from Engine 211, Ladder 119 and Rescue 2, who saved 7-year-old Mendy Gottlieb (center) receive plaques for their firehouses on June 26. Lt. Gordon Ambelas pictured third from right.
Firefighters from Engine 211, Ladder 119 and Rescue 2, who saved 7-year-old Mendy Gottlieb (center) receive plaques for their firehouses on June 26. Lt. Gordon Ambelas pictured third from right. (NYC/FDNY Photo)

Watch: Lt. Ambelas Describe May 2014 Gate Rescue

The fire broke out around 9:30 p.m. Saturday in an apartment on the 19th floor of the building that is part of the six-building Independence Towers complex owned by the New York City Housing Authority. It quickly went to a second-alarm as flames spread to the 17th and 18th floors.

Two other firefighters were treated at Bellevue Hospital for minor injuries. Two residents received treatment at the scene for minor injuries.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Firefighters Honor Fallen Procession

Official FDNY Statement

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro on July 6 announced the death of Lt. Gordon M. Ambelas, Ladder 119, a 14-year-veteran of the FDNY who died on July 5 from injuries sustained while attempting to save lives at a second-alarm fire in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Lt. Ambelas, 40, was searching for trapped occupants in a 19th floor apartment at 75 Wilson St., when the fire flashed over and trapped him in a bedroom. He was found unconscious by fellow firefighters who removed him from the apartment and attempted to resuscitate him, along with EMS personnel. He was transported in critical condition to Woodhull Medical Center, where he later died.

“New York has suffered a terrible and tragic loss tonight with the death of Lt. Gordon Ambelas, who heroically died trying to protect and save others—something he’s done for more than 14 years for the city,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We all mourn his loss, and I ask every New Yorker to keep Lieutenant Ambelas and his family in their thoughts and prayers.”

“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,” said Fire Commissioner Nigro.

Lt. Ambelas—who friends and colleagues called “Matt”—was appointed as a firefighter on Feb. 1, 2000. After graduating from Probationary Firefighter School, he was assigned to Ladder Company 81 on Staten Island. In January 2001, Firefighter Ambelas transferred to Engine Company 28 in lower Manhattan, where he spent one year before returning to Ladder Company 81. On Sept. 14, 2013, Firefighter Ambelas was promoted to Lt. and assigned to Battalion 28 in northern Brooklyn, where he worked in various firehouses as a “covering” lieutenant. He spent the past several months working in Ladder Company 119.

He and the members of Ladder Company 119 were recently honored by the community of Williamsburg for rescuing a 7-year-old boy who was trapped in a roll down gate on Skillman Street on May 8.

The fire officer is the 1,143rd firefighter to die in the line of duty since the FDNY’s founding in 1865. The last member of the Department to die while on duty was Lt. Richard Nappi, on Apr. 16, 2012.

Lt. Ambelas, who lived on Staten Island, is survived by his wife, Nanette, and their two children.

First Report – Saturday 1130p

The FDNY has announced the line of duty death of Lt. Gordon Ambelas, assigned to Ladder 119 in Brooklyn. Lt. Ambelas was killed as crews battled a two-alarm high rise fire at a public housing complex.

Firefighters were dispatched at about 9 p.m. Saturday to 75 Wilson Street in Brooklyn. At some point during the operation around 10 p.m., the Mayday was transmitted. Ambelas was removed from the building in cardiac arrest, with video showing fellow firefighters and EMS crews working to save him doing CPR.

The NY Post reported early Sunday that Mayor Bill de Blasio was at Woodhull Medical Center where the firefighter was transported.

Ambelas was involved in a unique rescue of a boy caught in a roll down gate in May. The crews were presented recognition for their efforts by the community and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro just two weeks ago.

At the June 26 ceremony, Ambelas, was humbled to receive such an honor. “[This incident] shows that FDNY members are always ready to help others. It was great teamwork all around.”

Ambelas was from Staten Island and was promoted to Lieutenant on September 12, 2013. He was married and also leaves behind two young daughters.

The last FDNY line of duty death was Lt. Richard Nappi, Engine 237, who was killed on April 16, 2012 battling a three-alarm Brooklyn warehouse fire.

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