Wall Street Journal
April 7, 2014


Two NYPD Officers Seriously Hurt in Brooklyn Fire

The Officers Were Overcome by Smoke While Responding to the Blaze in Coney Island

By  and  

 Peter J. Smith for The Wall Street Journal  

Firefighters respond to the blaze at 2007 Surf Avenue in Brooklyn Sunday.


Two New York City police officers were critically injured Sunday afternoon in a fire at a Coney Island apartment high-rise, police and fire officials said.

The officers—Dennis Guerra, 38 years old, and Rosa Rodriguez, 36 — were overcome by smoke after getting out of the elevator on the 13th floor of the 18-story Unity Tower on Surf Avenue, Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

Police said the blaze was caused by a burning mattress, and investigators said the bedding was intentionally set on fire. No one had been in arrested in connection with the fire as of Sunday night.

Mr. Guerra and Ms. Rodriguez suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation; they were being treated at different hospitals Sunday night, officials said.

The officers, who each have four children, have worked for the New York City Police Department for more than three and seven years, respectively, and patrolled city public-housing property, including Unity Tower.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the fire a "sobering reminder" of the perils faced by police and firefighters.

"Our hearts go out to these families," he said at a Sunday news conference.

After being rushed to Brooklyn hospitals, Mr. Guerra was transferred to Jacobi Medial Center in the Bronx and Ms. Rodriguez was taken to New York Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical Center, where she was placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, said Eli Kleinman, the NYPD's chief surgeon.

The officers boarded the elevator about 12:30 p.m.; the fire was reported 10 minutes earlier.

Police and fire officials initially said the officers had been stuck in the elevator; at the news conference, police Commissioner William Bratton said cameras showed the officers were overcome as they got out of the elevator on the 13th floor.

First responders found the officers within minutes, he said, pulled them inside the elevator and went down to the ground floor, where they began treatment.

The fire inside the New York City Housing Authority-owned building was under control by about 1:20 p.m., the New York City Fire Department said. Three other first responders and nine civilians suffered minor injures, Mr. Bratton said. One civilian was transported to Lutheran Medical Center and released.

Jessica François, 22, who lives on the 14th floor, said she smelled smoke as she was sleeping. "When I woke up, there was a lot people running in," she said.

Carlos Valentin, 42, lives on the top floor: "It was crazy. There were lots of cops, detectives, fire officers."

The building had sustained some damage during superstorm Sandy, with electricity temporarily knocked out and several residents left stranded for days in the building's upper floors.

—Joe Jackson and Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this article

Write to Mara Gay at mara.gay@wsj.com