Published On: Mon, Jan 6th, 2014

One Dead, One Injured In Massive Fire At Midtown Manhattan High-Rise

One man died and another was badly injured when a Hell’s Kitchen condo tower became a smoke-filled trap to residents weighing whether to stay or flee Sunday morning.Article-addonfire

The blaze at the luxury Strand Condominium on W. 43rd St. broke out in an apartment on the 20th floor of the 41-story building about 11 a.m., killing Daniel McClung, 27, as he tried to escape from the 32nd floor, cops said.

“Unfortunately, in this fire, it appears that the victims may have been originally inside their apartments safe and exited the apartments and become the victims in the stairwells,” Assistant Fire Chief John Sudhik said.

The building’s three elevators weren’t working because they were grounded by the FDNY for safety, officials said. Some residents said there was little or no instruction from management about what to do. The scene that ensued was chaotic, residents said.

“Someone started yelling ‘Get out! Get out!’ ” said Nina Regeuik, 57, who was on the 12th floor. “I ran to the first floor. I saw fire was shooting out of the apartment.”

As the smoke billowed through the building, some residents turned to social media to notify followers of their plight.

“Big fire in our building,” tweeted Nadja Atwal. “Hubby, son and me seem safe on balcony.” a theoretical physicist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, also posted messages during the ordeal.

About 150 firefighters battled the blaze contained in the apartment for about an hour and 40 minutes before it was extinguished, officials said. The cause of the blaze remained under investigation.

McClung, who was found in the 31st-floor stairwell, died at Roosevelt Hospital. A friend said McClung, a playwright and fiction writer, and his partner Michael Cohen, a TV producer, married in July and recently bought a condo in the building.

Cohen, 32, who also tried to escape the fire, suffered smoke inhalation and was in stable condition Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell.

“They were a really sweet couple. They are both great guys,” a friend, Tim Curran, told the Daily News.

“My heart goes out to him (Michael),” Curran added. “It’s just an unbelievably huge loss. To lose the guy you just married and been with for years, it’s heartbreaking and really difficult.”

Several other people suffered minor injuries but refused hospital treatment. Four firefighters were also injured, officials said.

The FDNY said the fire was in one apartment, but that two other units were damaged by flames that were lapping at the outside of the building.

An agency spokesman said all residents should have followed the Atwals’ lead and remained inside their units.

“This is a fireproof building and in the case of a fire – in most instances – it is safer to stay put in your apartment and wait for directions from the fire department or building services,” FDNY spokesman James Long said.

He said the FDNY notified residents who called 911 that they should stay in their units and wait for firefighters.A working number for building management couldn’t be located and it was unclear if anyone had notified residents about the fire or told them to stay in their units.

John Lupiano, 53, his wife Maria, 52, and their two kids — Drexel, 10, and Bradley, 13 — immediately headed for the stairs from their 40th-floor apartment.

“I smelled smoke and I didn’t know where it was coming from,” Maria Lupiano said. “I didn’t know where the fire was so I just said, ‘Let’s go right away.’”

“It was really just flight — to try and vacate,” John Lupiano said.

He said the family faced danger in the stairwell, but continued on.“The smoke got more intense but we had no choice but to go down,” he said. “We’re lucky we didn’t lose our children and didn’t become disabled in the stairwell, where we couldn’t see or breathe.”