Private Emmanuel Mensah, 28, was home at his Bronx apartment when the fatal fire, started by a 3-year-old playing with a stove, broke Thursday night (Dec. 28). He immediately went into recusing mode, and safely escorted four people outside of the burning apartment building, but as he returned back into the building to rescue more, he never made it back out.
Mensah, a Ghanaian native was a private first class in the New York National Guard who was stationed in Virgina. He was set to begin basic training in the next fall season, since his recent graduation from boot camp along with advanced individual training in 2018. Mensah owned a goal to become a military police officer.
His father, Kwabena Mensah, recalls the heroic nature of his son as witnesses disclose the ways and actions he performed that fatal night. “He was trying to help people out from the fire, and unfortunately he lost his life. He tried to do his best,” the grieving 62-year-old father of the fallen soldier tells the New York Post. “He helped his roommate’s wife and children, they were trying to come out to the stairs and he stopped them.”
The Belmont fire is considered to be New York City’s deadliest fire in more than 25 years since the devastating Happy Land Social Club fire that left 87 people dead in 1990, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Saturday (Dec. 30), the mayor publicly recognized the heroic deeds of Mensah, by using his efforts as an example of that of New York’s finest. “Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier and a New Yorker. He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire. His heroism exemplifies the best of our city. Rest in peace,” says de Blasio.
Once she heard her son’s outcry, the mother of the 3-year-old boy grabbed him and his sibling, leaving her apartment door ajar, causing the fire spread quickly through the 29-unit building, killing at least 12 people which include 4 children.
Mensah’s father, who at first did not agree with his son’s decision to join the Army, spent his weekend in and out of the hospital, hoping for his son’s recovery.
“I came home praying for something good, but unfortunately it’s bad,” Father Mensah told New York Post. “He never made it out.”