An Army National Guardsman was among those who lost his life while rescuing several people from a massive fire in an apartment building in New York on Thursday. It was the deadliest fire in the city in more than a quarter century.
Emmanuel Mensah, 28, a native of Ghana who immigrated to New York's Bronx borough about five years ago, had been staying in the Bronx apartment with a family friend, who was married and had four children.
According to reports, Mensah's body was found in another apartment on the same floor, likely because he was trying to save others from the fire. At least 12 people died in the fire.
"He was trying to help people out of the fire, and unfortunately, he lost his life. He tried to do his best," the man's father, Kwabena Mensah told the New York Post.
The elder Mensah told the New York Post that his son was home after completing basic training in Georgia and was scheduled to head to Virginia. He was a private first class and part of the National Guard's Recruit Sustainment Program, which prepares soldiers for the adjustment between basic training and advanced individual training.
When the fire ripped through the apartment, the elder Mensah said his son turned his attention to saving others.
Mensah also told the New York Post, "He helped his roommate's wife and children, they were trying to come out to the stairs and he stopped them." Mensah added, "He told them to come out the window ... Then he went in and tried to rescue people out."
The New York Times reports Mensah had plans to become a military police officer, and once he pulled that family to safety, he saved more people, then went into the building and never emerged again.
The New York Times reports Twum Bredu, Mensah's uncle who lives next door, said of his nephew, "He brought four people out," adding, "When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him."
As NPR has reported, New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Friday morning that the fire started in a first-floor kitchen by a 3-year-old boy who was playing with burners on a stove. The flames spread quickly, in part because the boy's mother left the door open as they fled the burning apartment.
The stairway of the apartment "acted like a chimney," according to Nigro, and the flames swiftly moved upstairs, giving other residents little time to react.