Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Story Of Hearfelt Compassion and Empathy

On April 20, 2010 the Hazleton Standard Speaker published this story written by Jim Dino that chronicles a story about 7-year-old Omar and 3-year-old Elijah Sanes, brothers who died in a fire at their Manhattan Court, Hazleton, home in April, 2007. Hazleton Firefighters donated a tombstone for the gravesite of the children because the family could not memorialize their loved ones.

On Monday, the third anniversary of the boys' deaths, the Sanes family joined Hazleton firefighters in dedicating the tombstone, which rests near a driveway on the grassy southern end of St. Gabriel's Cemetery, Hazleton Heights.

"This beautiful stone shows two angels looking down on us. They watch down on us every day," said Hazleton Fire Chief Donald Leshko, whose department solicited donations after learning the family could not afford the tombstone. "Three years ago, this department endured one of its hardest days. They will always be part of our family. We are grateful that you allow us to be part of your family. You will always be a part of our family."

The original story about this sad tragedy is captured at this link to the Hazleton Fire Department.

April 19, 2007 0026: City fire crews dispatched to 598-599 Manhattan Court for a reported structure fire with unknown entrapment. While responding to the alarm, city firefighters were notified by firefighter Joel Mumie that he had a working structure fire with confirmed multiple entrapments. Engine 2 with Firefighter James Sharp arrived on location and was met by Mumie. Mumie raised a 14 ft roof ladder to the front porch of the duplex and Sharp raised a ladder to a second story window where a little boy was seen prior to our arrival. Mumie assisted by FF Carl Stempert (who lives at 598 Manhattan Ct.) rescued a pregnant female from the second floor front bedroom and took her to safety on the porch roof, Mumie was advised by the female that her 11 month old baby was in the crib in her bed room, he entered and did a quick search for the baby. Engine 5 arrived and went to assist the crews working. DC Mandak called for an additional Engine to be put in service and Engine 3 to the scene. Engine 5 dropped a 4” supply line from Engine 2 to a near by hydrants. Ladder 1 arrived with FF Kevin Ruby and FF Sam Altmiller. FF Altmiller went to assist Mumie, Stempert and Ruby went to the D side to assist Sharp. Ruby, Sharp assisted with FF Thomas Tutko repositioned the ladder and Ruby tried to enter the second floor window and conditions were unbearable. While on the ladder a first floor window under him failed and Ruby had to bail off the extension ladder. While the crews working on side D were making there attempts, Mumie cleared the room before it got unbearable and had to bail onto the roof. The child was taken out of the home by his father. After unsuccessful attemps two crews was assembled one of FF’s John Paletski III, Sam Altmiller and another of David Fatula, Joe Jones and Ruby. Paletski and Altmiller with out the portection of a with a hose line made the second floor and went to the right and search a computer room and was in the attic when the front room flashed over. Fatula, Jones and Ruby enter with a hose line and made there way to the second floor where they encounted a heavy fire load in the hallway. Jones entered the first room on their left and found the two boys in there bedroom. The hose line was handed off to a crew entering and Fatula Jones and Ruby removed the boys to awaiting crews outside. Ruby and Jones gave the 7year old boy to FF Era Gould. Gould and Fatula brought both children to awaiting APTS EMS. Paramedic and EMT’S both from APTS and the City Fire Department and surrounding areas worked on the children and were transported to Hazleton General Hospital. Fire crew quickly extinguished the fire and overhauled. Extention to the 598 address was kept very minimal. ER staffs continued to work the two boys but were unsuccessful and pronounced at the hospital. The parents and 11 month old were transported to HGH and then where airlifted to Lehigh Valley Medical Center Burn unit. City crews were on scene till day break. State Police with City Fire and Police Departments investigated the fire and determined it to be a cooking accident. Funds have been set up for both families:

Sanes Family Fund
c/o PNC Bank
Church Hill Mall Branch
1063 North Church Street
Hazleton, PA 18202.

Stempert Family Fire Fund
C/O PNC Bank
7th + Church St. Branch
Hazleton, Pa. 18201

Hazleton Firefighters never stopped thinking of this family nor their enormous loss.

Well-known radio and TV personality and veteran Leo Valovich said firefighters have been touched by the tragedy.

" 'Til this day, many of the firefighters who were on the scene the night of the fire have a difficult time talking about it," Valovich said.

Valovich said firefighters stayed in touch with the family, and learned through a conversation with Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Jones the family did not have the money to pay for a headstone.

"This set Shawn into action," Valovich said. "Shawn spoke to vice president and firefighter Tony Colombo, and the decision was made to go to each of the five fire companies in the city, and ask for a donation to pay for a headstone for Omar and Elijah."

Valovich said they enlisted the assistance of the president of the Heights Volunteer Fire Co., firefighter Joe Bugda, who wrote a letter that was sent to numerous area businesses.

"The response was outstanding," Valovich said. "Local companies stepped up and donated equipment needed for the task. Numerous individuals donated their time to help in any way possible. The monetary donations were unbelievable."

The Rev. Patrick Genello, pastor of Holy Rosary Church, blessed the stone, which was made by Evans Cemetery Memorials, Tower City, Schuylkill County. James Sweeny played the bagpipes, and James Sabatella played taps on the trumpet.

"I know the boys are looking down on us now," said Mari-Ivette Sanes. "We may have lost them, but we've gained an extended family in the Hazleton firefighters. We appreciate everything you did that night and today."

Last night the family of these young children thanked the city firefighters by serving a dinner to them at the South Side Station located on East Broad Street in Hazleton Jim Dino writes a follow up story

Jose and Mari-Ivette Sanes didn't feel a simple "thank you" was enough.

So, on Monday night, they served a dinner to Hazleton firefighters to thank them for their recent donation of a headstone for their two sons, Omar and Elijah, who died in a fire at the family home three years ago.

But the "thank you" wasn't only for the tombstone, she said.

"It was not only for the headstone, but for their efforts on the night of the fire," Mrs. Sanes said. "How do you thank people for risking their lives to try to save your children? A simple 'thank you' didn't seem like enough."

Mayor Lou Barletta, who also attended the dinner at the South Side Station on East Broad Street, said he understood what the Sanes felt.

"It was a gesture to the firefighters, who worked so gallantly to save those boys," Barletta said. "If you talk to the firefighters, they would say they were doing their jobs. But I know the loss of Omar and Elijah touched every member of the fire company, as it did every member of our community."

It is a tragic story with a blessed ending. One can do nothing but have a heavy heart for the tragedy this family has endured, suffered, and will carry on their shoulders and in their hearts for the rest of their lives.

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