MTA Bridge and Tunnel officers save residents from LIC blaze

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Photo courtesy of MTA / Oscar Gonzalez
Photo courtesy of MTA / Oscar Gonzalez

MTA Bridge and Tunnel officers noticed a fire near the Queens Midtown Tunnel and rescued residents from an LIC apartment building.

Two MTA Bridge and Tunnel officers were injured after helping rescue more than a dozen people from an early morning fire at a Long Island City apartment building.

Sgts. Kris Owens and Paul Leggio were preparing for a security checkpoint at the Queens Midtown Tunnel administration building Wednesday when they saw flames and smoke at the rear of an apartment building  just two doors away, the transit agency said.

A two-alarm fire had broken out just after 6:30 a.m. in a four-story dwelling at 10-39 51st Ave.

Owens and Leggio, together with Sgt. Jacinth Thomas and Officers Joseph Vasquez, Ronald Linck, Steven Wall, Dave Rivera and James McGuigan, sprung into action and decided to check to see if anyone was trapped in the blaze.

“We saw heavy flames and smoke as we approached, and we started knocking on doors and kicking doors to get the people out,” Owens said. “Everybody seemed to be sleeping and disoriented, and some people came out in their nightclothes.”

After safely removing more than a dozen people from the building, the officers also evacuated residents from the apartment buildings on both sides of the fire, according to the MTA.

“Within a few minutes we had the building cleared. We got everybody out safely. I’m glad we were there,” Owens said.

Vasquez and Linck were injured while evacuating residents and were taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment of cuts, bruises and smoke inhalation, the MTA said. Five firefighters were also hurt in the blaze, according to the FDNY, but no civilian injuries were reported.

“Our Bridge and Tunnel Officers work around the clock to protect our customers from hazards of vehicular traffic, but when they saw lives at risk off our property, these brave officers did not hesitate to plunge into danger to save them,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said. “I’m proud of their selfless actions to protect the public.”