Tag Archives: Dylan Smith

Lawsuit filed alleging negligence by power companies during Breezy Point blaze


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP

The Breezy Point blaze during Sandy was “so massive, it looked like a forest fire,” said Billy Heeran, a Rockaway resident.

Heeran owned what has been called an “iconic restaurant” in the neighborhood, the Harbor Light Pub. The family business had stayed afloat for over 30 years, but it was reduced to ashes the night of the storm.

Dylan Smith, who died surfing less than two months after rescuing people during Sandy, worked for Heeran for 10 years and called him that night to tell him the pub was on fire.

“He said, ‘Billy, there’s fire blowing out of the windows,’” Heeran said. “I knew it was bad. There was no fire department getting in there.”

Following the FDNY confirmation that the fire was electrical, people who lost homes and businesses decided to fight back. A notice of claim was filed in January, as previously reported by The Courier, that residents were seeking damage compensation from power companies LIPA and National Grid.

The negligence claim against the power companies was officially filed Tuesday, July 3. It alleges that the two had a duty to provide for and ensure the safety of the property of those who are supplied its electricity, such as Breezy Point, and was negligent in failing to de-energize the area prior to the storm.

In the event of extreme flooding, power companies are advised to shut off electricity in vulnerable areas in order to prevent incidents such as electrical fires. The claim states that prior to Sandy, both LIPA and National Grid were aware of the necessity to do as such.

Law firms Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP and Godosky & Gentile, P.C. are representing 120 people all seeking a different amount of compensation based on damages.

“It’s a tremendous burden on these folks,” said attorney Keith Sullivan, born and raised in the Rockaways. “They don’t have the money to rebuild.”

Additionally, he said, the fire victims will have to rebuild according to new building codes and FEMA requirements.

LIPA issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, saying the “effort to place fault for this tragedy with the utility is misplaced,” but the company is “sensitive to those families who suffered tragic losses from Sandy.”
Sullivan countered the statement, saying it is “completely ridiculous.”

“That implies these people are making this up,” he said. “There’s nothing faint about their losses.”

A National Grid spokesperson said the group has not yet received the lawsuit, but “National Grid’s actions during Sandy were reasonable and appropriate” and they “don’t believe that these claims have merit.”
Heeran, also a local firefighter, said once he received the fire marshal’s report, he thought, “There’s negligence here.”

“If the power was shut down, the fire would have never happened. We would have been flooded, but would have been back up in business within 10 days,” he said.

 

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Marshall gives final State of the Borough address


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy — honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm.

“Let’s reflect together now,” she said on Tuesday, January 22, “on the devastation Sandy caused. The relief, from across the street and across the country, and the rebuilding, now underway, inspired by hope and the promise of tomorrow.”

Marshall honored the memory of Dylan Smith — the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico last month — for his heroic efforts to help neighbors during the storm. With Smith’s parents in attendance, Marshall announced her office would give a $10,000 grant to the Swim Strong Foundation, which teaches a healthy lifestyle through swimming, in Smith’s memory.

Swim Strong founder Shawn Slevin said the grant in Smith’s name would continue to help the program, which has taught more than 2,000 people water safety and granted nearly 700 scholarships.

“This will mean so much for our scholarship funds,” Slevin said. “The borough president and her staff have always been very supportive of us.”

Michael McDonald, who helped rescue Belle Harbor residents alongside Smith, recalled the late surfer was modest to the attention he received after the storm. Before the audience at Queens College’s Colden Theater, McDonald gave a heartfelt recollection of the late October night and referred to Smith as “a guardian angel in a wetsuit.”

“The idea that his name will be mentioned in what he loved to do, which was not only swim and surf, but look out for the safety of others [is wonderful],” he said.

Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. Marshall applauded the anti-gun work of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and announced she plans to sponsor a gun buy back program sometime this spring.

“While Thanksgiving was muted by Sandy and the holiday season was saddened by the horrific violence in Newtown, let’s all agree that 2013 must be a year of hope,” Marshall said. “Our hope for getting guns off the street is gaining momentum. Here in our city, we have a long-standing and tireless leader in this effort: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have seen the lowest number of murders in the past 40 years.”

 

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Sandy first responders honored as Queens Courier Persons of the Year


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Persons of the Year

With 2012  behind us, The Queens Courier is paying tribute to the first responders — those men and women who put their lives on the line every day, and who braved Sandy’s wrath to save, and help rebuild, lives.

They have earned our respect and admiration, and a debt of gratitude. Here is are some of their stories…

Dylan Smith

Dylan Smith saved the lives of six people during Sandy using just his surfboard, but tragically lost his own life just months later while on the water. On the night of Monday, October 29, Smith, 23, heroically paddled through the floodwaters into his neighbors’ homes in Belle Harbor, and, using a homemade rope bridge along with his surfboard, moved people to safety. Read more

Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department

By now, everyone knows the story. More than 120 houses burned to the ground in Breezy Point the night Sandy struck. It was one of the most destructive residential fires in New York City history. Houses were lost, but lives were saved. Read more

Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department

It began as a glow to the west, a speck of twinkling amber light in the darkness. From the loft above the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department’s station, the crew watched as the flicker became a blaze, carrying a once charming beachfront neighborhood into the night sky in embers and smoke. “Oh my God,” they said. “Breezy’s burning.” Read more

West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department

The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department station house is on a strip of land that isn’t far from the water. So when the storm surge from Sandy started to rise up in the hamlet on Jamaica Bay, it brought seven feet of water into the firehouse where eight volunteers — five firefighters and three EMTs — were on duty. Read more

Queens Courier Persons of the Year honoree: Dylan Smith


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy The New York Daily News

With 2012 behind us, The Queens Courier is paying tribute to the first responders — those men and women who put their lives on the line every day, and who braved Sandy’s wrath to save, and help rebuild, lives.

They have earned our respect and admiration, and a debt of gratitude. Here is one of their stories…

Dylan Smith saved the lives of six people during Sandy using just his surfboard, but tragically lost his own life just months later while on the water.

On the night of Monday, October 29, Smith, 23, heroically paddled through the floodwaters into his neighbors’ homes in Belle Harbor, and, using a homemade rope bridge along with his surfboard, moved people to safety. However, Smith was found floating near his surfboard in the waters of Puerto Rico on Sunday, December 23, according to police. A local surfer rushed him to shore, but he could not be resuscitated.

“It’s such a sad loss,” said Jimmy Dowd. “You’ve got this great kid that does the right thing for everyone, going through his life, and he just gets taken like that.”

“He was just that all-around, neighborhood American boy,” he added. “He was a real zest-for-life kind of kid.”

Dowd, who owns a clothing company in the Rockaways, recalled that Smith really enjoyed drawing and sketching, saying he was “good with the pencil.” Smith had submitted some of his images to Dowd, and the two were talking about putting them onto T-shirts to sell.

During the summers, Smith was a lifeguard in Rockaway, and spent as much time as he could on the beach. He was a very “solid” part of the neighborhood, according to Dowd, and was always very outgoing and willing to lend a helping hand.

“He’d go out of his way for people,” said Dowd. “He was a really big-hearted, good kid.”

When summers subsided and winters settled in, Smith would fly south to spend time in Rincon, Puerto Rico. FDNY Chief Michael Light, a family friend who knew Smith his whole life, told the Daily News that Smith went to the popular surfing spot on Maria’s Beach to “unwind” and “blow off some steam.”

On the night of the storm, the young surfer acted with longtime neighbor, Michael McDonnell. The pair rescued their Beach 130th Street neighbors not only from the rising flood, but also from widespread house fires.

Following Sandy, both Smith and McDonnell were named two of People magazine’s 2012 Heroes of the Year.

- With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

More Queens Courier Persons of the Year:

 

Queens surfer who saved six during Sandy apparently drowns in Puerto Rico


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


A 23-year-old Belle Harbor man, who, using his surfboard, heroically saved six people during Sandy, died in a surfing accident in Puerto Rico yesterday, according to multiple media reports.

The body of lifeguard Dylan Smith was discovered floating near his surfboard in the waters just off of Maria’s Beach in western Puerto Rican, near Rincon on Sunday morning, police told NBC New York.

Smith was pulled from the water, but attempts to resuscitate him failed. It appears that he drowned, but the U.S. Caribbean territory’s police are investigating his death.

FDNY Chief Michael Light, a family friend who knew Smith his whole life, told the Daily News that Smith went to the popular surfing spot to “unwind” and “blow off some steam.”

“The same sport — the sport of surfing — that he used to save all those people, it’s so shocking that he perished that way,” Light also told the paper.

During the night of Sandy, Smith, along with Michael McDonnell, rescued six of their neighbors trapped on a Beach 130th Street porch as houses around them burned and flood waters surged. Using a homemade rope bridge and surfboard, the pair was able to get them to safety.

Because of their heroics, People magazine named Smith and McDonnell as two of its 2012 Heroes of the Year.