Emmanuel Mensah did not hesitate when a fire began to rip through his family’s apartment building in the Bronx, rushing into the flames to help pull friends and strangers to safety — and ultimately giving his own life.
The U.S. Army soldier was home for the holiday after completing basic training in Georgia, the New York Post reported. When a fire broke out inside the apartment building, Mensah rushed back into the inferno to help bring people to safety.
“That’s his nature,” his father, Kwabena Mensah, told the New York Post. “He was trying to help people out from the fire, and unfortunately he lost his life. He tried to do his best.”
The fire claimed the lives of 12 people, including Emmanuel Mensah, but it would have been worse were it not for the heroic soldier. Emmanuel was able to pull out between five and 10 people by helping them avoid the flames and find a safe passage through a window.
Mensah first helped his roommate’s wife and children, stopping them from coming down a dangerous staircase and instead helping them leave through a window. Kwabena Mensah said that his son then went back to help other people living in the apartment complex, helping four or five more making it to safety. His body was recovered in an apartment on the same floor where he saved his roommate’s family, the report noted. Mensah reportedly died of smoke inhalation.
The fire reportedly started with a toddler who was playing with a stove. It engulfed that apartment and then quickly cut a path through the apartment building, moving so quickly that it became impossible for some to escape.
Mensah had immigrated to the Bronx from Ghana four years ago, the New York Times noted, and decided to join the U.S. Army. He won awards for marksmanship and planned to join the military police, the report added.
The deadly fire cut a fast path through the building, the report noted, killing a dozen people including four children who were not able to escape the building. While investigators believe they have found the source of the fire, it remains under investigation.
Emmanuel Mensah’s family and the U.S. military are reportedly making funeral arrangements for the Army private.