Hell's Kitchen fire ruled accidental

Sandra Bookman has the story.
January 6, 2014 3:40:16 PM PST
Investigators say a faulty electric wire sparked a deadly fire in Midtown that turned a high-rise apartment building into a towering, smoke-filled death trap.

Fire Department operations Chief James Esposito said Monday that there was a Christmas tree in the apartment. But he says it's not clear whether the cord was connected to it.

The flames broke out at the luxury Strand condominium at 500 West 43rd Street, near 10th Avenue, in Hell's Kitchen shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, killing one man as he tried to escape and leaving another injured.

About 150 firefighters battled the third-alarm fire and brought it under control shortly before 1 p.m.

Daniel McClung, 27, dashed out of his 31st-floor apartment and headed for the stairwell, but he became trapped by smoke generated from the fire on the 20th floor and was overcome.

He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The other victim, identified as McClung's 32-year-old husband, was hospitalized at Weill-Cornell Medical Center in stable condition.

"We try to give advice to stay in the apartment in these types of buildings," FDNY Assistant Chief John Sudnik said. "It's very important to stay in your apartment in a fire-proof high-rise building. It's designed to prevent fire extension."

One building resident, Mickey Atwal, tweeted that there was smoke in the hallways and that he was standing on the balcony with his wife and 2-year-old child.

Atwal said there were firefighters in the hallway telling them to stay put and that his family was safe.

Another resident, on the 36th floor, said residents were told to stay in their apartments and open their windows due to the smoke in the halls.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and several civilians were injured but refused to go to the hospital.