NYPD Officers Dennis Guerra and Rosa Rodriguez were overcome by smoke in a building elevator in Coney Island on Sunday.
Photo credit: Courtesy of The New York Post/Theodore Parisienne
A Coney Island teenager who said he was “bored” confessed to setting a blaze that nearly killed two NYPD cops who were trapped in a smoke-filled elevator and found unconscious in a hallway, law enforcement sources said Monday.
“He said he was bored. He set it with a lighter, and then he tried to put it out but he couldn’t,” a source said of the blaze in a 13th-floor hallway at a housing project at 2007 Surf. Ave.
“Then he started knocking on doors — he has cousins on that floor — to get people out of there. Then they ran out of the building, and he was trying to make like he was a hero.”
The firebug, 17, was busted in 2010 on an arson charge and admitted to cops he had a “problem” with starting fires.
The suspect — a 12th-floor resident of the building who also has sealed arrests for criminal mischief and pot possession from earlier this year — remained in custody with criminal charges pending.
He was spotted on surveillance video leaving the building after setting fire to a mattress in the hallway.
The two cops were choking and blinded by smoke in the elevator of the building as the fire raged, and frantically radioed for help.
“Help! Help! We can’t breathe. Get us out of here! We don’t know where we are. We’re in an elevator. We don’t know what floor we’re on. We can’t breathe! We can’t see!” screamed one of the cops over the police radio Sunday before the pair collapsed in the hallway, unconscious.
Housing officer Dennis Guerra, 38, a married dad of four, was in cardiac arrest by the time help arrived.
He was rushed to Coney Island Hospital and then airlifted to Jacobi Hospital in The Bronx, where he remains in critical condition. Both Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio rushed to Jacobi.
Guerra’s partner, Rosa Rodriguez, 36, a mother of four, was transported from Lutheran Hospital in Brooklyn to Cornell Medical Center’s burn unit in Manhattan and placed in a hyperbaric chamber. She was also listed in critical condition.
The partners were on routine patrol at the housing project when they investigated a 911 call of smoke from the mattress fire, officials said.
For some reason, the cops jumped into an elevator.
“You’re never supposed to use the elevator because you might get stuck,” the source said.
The cops were immediately engulfed in smoke and heat when the elevator reached the 13th floor.
“Fire Department personnel arrived at the building and made their way up to the 13th floor, where they found both officers unconscious and unresponsive on the hallway floor,” said Bratton.
“Responding firefighters pulled both officers back into the elevator and brought them downstairs, where EMS personnel were waiting.”
A resident spotted the mattress fire through her apartment peephole.
“Housing usually comes in the morning and takes trash down. Today, someone pulled out a mattress from a back stairwell and didn’t bring it down,’’ said 13th-floor resident Yolanda Vargas.
“By the time I looked through my peephole, all I could see was flames,” Vargas said.
“I went to the back window, opened the window and waited for the firefighters to tell us what to do,” she said.
Bratton and de Blasio both comforted Guerra’s family — including his stricken parents — at his bedside.
“It’s incredibly difficult work these men and women do,” the mayor said. “I say this on behalf of all New Yorkers: Our hearts go out to the families. We will stand by them.”
At Guerra’s Far Rockaway home, his distraught family was praying for his recovery.
“Right now, they stabilized him and all we can do is pray for the best. It’s been a long, rough night. The kids are upstairs and they’re very upset. We appreciate our privacy at this time,” said his wife, Cathy Guerra.
“He’s in the best possible care with the best possible doctors and we know they’re doing the best they can. I just came home to shower and I’m going right back,” added his mother, Miriam Guerra.
A cop at Cornell keeping vigil for Rodriguez tried to comfort her son, telling him, “She’s a great lady, she’s going to be fine.”
Three firefighters and nine residents also suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene and released, Bratton said.
Republished with permission of The New York Post