By Debbie Gregory.
A decorated Army National Guard soldier died of smoke inhalation while attempting to rescue his neighbors from December’s deadly apartment building fire in the Bronx, New York.
Private Emmanuel Mensah went back into the building twice to rescue neighbors. But he did not make it out alive.
“He’s always had that nature that I’m going to help people,” sister Vanessa Mensah said.
The 28-year-old Mensah immigrated to the Bronx from Ghana five years ago, and had just graduated from boot camp. He was home for the holidays.
“His heroism exemplifies the best of our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Rest in peace.”
A child playing with a kitchen stove started the fire, which quickly spread through the 29-unit building. The fire killed at least 12 people, including four children.
Mensah, who had been awarded a medal for marksmanship, had been planning to become a military policeman.
“When he came here he just said, ‘Dad, I want to join the Army,’ ” recalled Kwabena Mensah, Emmanuel’s father.“At first I didn’t agree with him, but I decided that’s his choice.”
Mensah’s uncle, Twun Bredu, said before firefighters arrived, his nephew saved his roommate’s family of six.
Private Mensah was found in Apartment 15, his uncle said, but he lived in Apartment 11, with a friend of his father’s, who was at home with his wife and four children.
Rather than letting them go out the front door, Mensah pulled them back into the room. Bredu said the family made their way out through a fire escape, a move that saved their lives, as Mensah started helping other people.
In addition to Emmanuel Mensah, 11 others lost their lives.