Ceremony honors N.J. cops who rescued residents in apartment fire

Video showed officers catching a 4-year-old child who was dropped out of the burning building

By Ron Zeitlinger
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

SECAUCUS, N.J. — The town of Secaucus paid tribute Monday night to the members of the town’s police department who rescued multiple people from a burning apartment building last month.

The members, who included sergeants, detectives, police officers and dispatchers, were given Life Saving Awards and/or a Unit Citation for the heroic actions at Building C at 2 Radio Ave. on June 24.

An awards ceremony for Secaucus Police and Firefighters took place at Buchmuller Park on July 27, 2020.
An awards ceremony for Secaucus Police and Firefighters took place at Buchmuller Park on July 27, 2020. (Photo/Michael Dempsey | The Jersey Journal via MCT)

After receiving numerous calls of the fire and residents trapped inside the building, Detective Matthew Ford and Police Officers Stephen Hurtuk and Matthew Garzone arrived on scene and were alerted to a family trapped in their smoke-filled apartment on the second floor.

The officers aligned underneath the family’s window, and guided the mother in dropping her 4-year-old child out of the window to the waiting officers. Ford took the child, who was not injured, to a safe location away from the building.

Meanwhile, Police Officers Nicholas Spangenberg and Jason Mitchell forced their way into an apartment and evacuated an unconscious woman from smoke-filled, first floor apartment with the assistance of Det. Aniello Schaffer and Sgt. Marc Schoch.

Spangenberg re-entered the building in an attempt to extinguish the fire while Police Officer Jonathan Padron evacuated residents. Schoch, Schaffer and Police Officers Michael Lyons and Kiril Petrov tended to the unconscious victim, who suffered second and third degree burns, until EMS arrived.

The officers, including Police Officers Christopher Miller and Frederick Kowal, along with Secaucus firefighters began clearing remaining apartments within the complex and setting up a safe perimeter on the outside of the complex.

Police Officer Anthony Burgos and Dispatchers Evan Barnes and Matthew Bienkowski, at police headquarters, were credited with fielding numerous 911 calls for the incident while giving timely and accurate information to first responders at the scene.

Detective Sgt. Giacomo Sallustio and Sgt. Christina Liptak were credited with seamlessly coordinating all efforts of responding officers at the scene with headquarters. Police Chief Dennis Miller said the coordination and leadership led to the best possible outcome for all officers and residents at the scene.

Miller officiated the ceremony at Buchmuller Park, while Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez and Mayor Mike Gonnelli also spoke. Felix and Maxine Ocasio, and their 4-year-old son, Giovanni, the boy rescued in the fire, were also in attendance and thanked all the officers involved.


The following video (and press release in the comments) depict true heroism and compassion towards our community. Not only do the officers save a 4 year old child's life in an active house fire, but also caught on camera is the officers trying to comfort him during such a traumatic experience while members of Secaucus Fire are rescuing the rest of this young boy's family from inside the apartment. Also, not captured on video is the rescue of a 56 year old woman by Officer Spangenberg, Officer Mitchell and Detective Schaffer. Officers bravely dragged the woman from her smoke filled doorway to the outdoors where they immediately rendered first aid.

Posted by Secaucus Police Department on Thursday, June 25, 2020

©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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