Rescued man to firefighter in Upper East Side fire: 'I'd call it a miracle on 93rd'

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Friday, October 28, 2016
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Stacey Sager has more from the Upper East Side.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A firefighter lowered from the roof of a burning Upper East Side apartment building rescued a man during a six-alarm fire that killed one person.

The dramatic rescue came during the fire that destroyed an entire apartment building on East 93rd Street between First and Second avenues.

Firefighters spotted 81-year-old James Duffy hanging out his fifth window and yelling for help just before 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

They tied a rope around firefighter Jim Lee of the New York City Fire Department's Rescue 1, who was battling the blaze from the roof, and lowered him down to rescue Duffy.

"You couldn't see anything over the edge, there was so much smoke and flames going out the window," Lee later said.

Eyewitness News obtained exclusive video showing the rescue as it happened:

Although blinded by the heavy smoke and flames, he was able to grab the man and they were both then lowered to the ground to safety.

"I told him to stay calm and when we got down, I said, 'hope you enjoyed the ride.' He sort of smiled and he was thankful," Lee said.

Duffy suffered serious burns and was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell where he is stable and recovering.

He told Eyewitness News over the phone on Thursday night that he would like to thank the firefighter who saved his life.

"First off, I'd call it a miracle on 93rd. A miracle happened, he was there at the right time and got me out, so I would call it the miracle on 93rd," Duffy said. "Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it, you saved my life. And like I said, it's a miracle that he was there and professional enough to do his job in a professional manner and got us both out without getting hurt too much."

"The chief told me he was in critical condition, but he was able to talk to me," Lee said of Duffy.

After they got to the ground, the rope broke. It had been burned through by the flames shooting out the windows.

"This is the type of rescue that is really extraordinary," FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said.

"He really put his life at risk. It doesn't happen that often in this department, maybe once every couple years, that we have a member who puts his life in this position and save a life because of their teamwork, their training and their bravery."

The FDNY later posted this photo and message showing the firefighter involved in the rescue: