Emmanuel Mensah, a 28-year-old who immigrated from Ghana five years ago, returned to his apartment for the first time after joining the Army a year ago, according to The New York Times. He was among the 12 people killed in the blaze that consumed an apartment building near the corner of East 187th Street and Prospect Avenue.
Mensah lived with friends of his father — a married couple and their four children. He got that family out of the burning building safely before pulling four more people from the fire, said Twum Bredu, his uncle who lived next door. Witnesses cited in the Times' report say Mensah disappeared after going back into the building to look for more victims.
"He brought four people out," Bredu told The Times. "When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him."
Another victim of the #Bronxfire, Emmanuel Mensah, a 28 yr old US Army solider, was home for the holidays. His father told @LSchmidtFox5 he died trying to help others get to safety @fox5ny 5pm pic.twitter.com/dkIL6ylTKF
— Stacey Delikat (@StaceyDelikat) December 29, 2017
Mensah is believed to have died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.
Mensah had just begun his military career, based on photos which indicate he held the rank of a private first class.
"I thought maybe he was coming back," said his father, Kwabena Mensah, according to CBS News. "Unfortunately, it turns out the other way."
Kwabena, who reportedly searched for his son at nearby hospitals, said he was not surprised by his son's final act.
"That's what I think, because it was in his nature," Kwabena said. "He wanted to help people out."
Four children were among the 12 people who died in the fire, which is suspected to have occurred a few minutes before 7 p.m., after a 3-year-old boy played with burners on a stove inside an apartment on the first floor, New York Fire Department's commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said during a news conference.
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Four people were critically injured from the fire and were "fighting for their lives," Nigro said.
"It seems like a horrible, tragic accident," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview with WNYC radio.
The fire quickly spread upward in the five-story building. Over 160 firefighters responded to the incident. By 10 p.m., the fire was under control.
The fire is believed to be New York City's deadliest since a 1990 blaze at a Bronx nightclub that killed 87 people.