The deadly fire at the luxury condo high rise on West 43rd St. on Sunday was an accident, and probably caused by an overloaded, defective or overused power strip, the FDNY said Monday. The fire, which sparked in a 20th floor unit, is thought to have begun when the building's occupant was not at home, according to a department spokesman.
Newlywed Daniel McClung, 27, a resident of the 38th floor, apparently died of smoke inhalation as he tried to escape down a smoke-filled stairwell. Results from an autopsy scheduled for Monday were pending, according to the Medical Examiner. McClung's husband, producer and writer Michael Cohen, 32, was taken to New York Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical Center in critical condition..
Residents from about 25 units in the 41-story building remain displaced due to damage caused by the blaze, said Michael de Vulpillieres, spokesman for the Red Cross.
"The whole building smells like smoke," said Mike Detres, 57, a psychologist who returned to his 28th floor apartment Monday morning. "It pervades everything."
The FDNY counsels residents in fire-proof high-rises who are not directly affected by a fire to remain in place, call 911, "explain your whereabouts and condition and await further guidance: We take note of that and send help to you," said an FDNY spokesman.
But it's very hard to know just how directly one will be affected by a building fire, explained Detres, who fled with his partner Sunday morning, along with many other residents. "It's very scary when you see all the smoke: We thought the fire had originated on our floor." It was not until Detres opened the door to stairwell A and encountered a wall impenetrable black smoke, that he realized the fire was not on his floor, but coming from somewhere below. The two men managed to escape down another stairwell, leaving behind their watches and cellphones. "I thought we had a better chance by getting out as soon as we could. These fires spread so rapidly," Detres explained. Besides, Detres noted, workplace fire drills "teach us to evacuate."
Residents should talk to their management companies to find out if their building is considered fire proof and how to best improve their odds of surviving during fires, said the FDNY spokesman.
(Sheila Anne Feeney)