Two FDNY Firefighters Killed in Floor Collapse Remembered

A second firefighter has died battling a blaze in the Bronx, in what has been called the deadliest day for the FDNY in almost two years.

On Monday, 43-year-old Howard Carpluk, a 20-year veteran, died of his injuries. Also killed: 25-year-old Michael Reilly, a rookie firefighter. We have several reports, including a closer look at the lives of the fallen firefighters. But we begin with NJ Burkett with the latest on the investigation.

A second New York City firehouse is in mourning and fire commanders are defending their decision to send the men inside in what is known as an aggressive interior attack.

It is one of the saddest New York City traditions: A firehouse draped in bunting. On Monday morning, Carpluk of Engine Company 42, became the second firefighter died after yesterday's raging storefront inferno.

"The loss of these two heroic firefighters will stay with all of us for the rest of our careers and the rest of our lives," Assistant FDNY Chief Robert Sweeney said.

The fire ripped through a Bronx variety store, fueled by flammable merchandise and paper products. Five firefighters were working on the main floor when the ceiling and a rooftop air conditioner suddenly gave way, collapsing the floor beneath them in a chain reaction death trap.

Three firefighters were rescued after several minutes, but Lietenant Carpluk and rookie firefighter Reilly were pinned beneath the wreckage for more than an hour.

"That's what we do day in and day out 24/7 ... this is a fire, there is a chance that somebody may be inside there ... we go in there and put the fire out," an official added.

Reilly was 25-years-old, an ex-Marine with Engine company 75. And in a sad twist of fate, Carpluk was filling in yesterday -- his unit was not among the first responders.

The cause of the fire is still not clear. It appears that it started in a row of refrigerators and is not regarded as suspicious.

But Eyewitness News has learned that the roof may have been weak to begin with.

Michael Reilly Remembered

We are learning more today about the two men who died battling that blaze. Twenty-five-year-old firefighter Michael Reilly was living a life-long dream as a firefighter. He just graduated two months ago.

New Jersey reporter Anthony Johnson is in Ramsey on how Reilly is being remembered.

Mourners are stopping by the memorial outside of the rescue squad where the flags are at half-staff and the black and purple bunting is draped from the roof of the building. Friends and colleagues are shaken by the tragic death. They say he was an outstanding person, a real fireman's fireman.

"He became a natural leader for us ... he had a huge heart," a coworker said.

At the Riley family home, there were deliveries of food and sympthay for those who knew Michael.

"His mother just wanted everyone to know that Michael was doing what he wanted to do. His dream was accomplished being a New York City fireman," a family friend said.

Neighbors say Riley was a young man who loved to help people.

"He was one of those type of kids who would help out without being asked ... help out an elderly neighbor ... he was just a real gentleman," a neighbor said.

That same sentiment was shared at his Westchester County home where he had been living for the past five months with three buddies, including another New York City fireman.

Howard Carpluk Remembered

For more on the life of firefighter Howard Carpluk, we turn to Emily Smith in Yaphank where it was a very painful day for the family and the FDNY.

Authorities have been outside the Carpluk home all afternoon just to help with the family's privacy. Now, Lieutenant Carpluk leaves behind his wife Debra, his daughter Paige, his son Bradley.

Understandably, family members did not want to go on camera today. But those in the neighborhood certainly did.

"Even with our children, he played ball with them ... just an all around great guy," a neighbor said.

Carpluk moved to Yaphank 15 years ago, making a difference to everyone he ever met.

"He has been a wonderful neighbor, really generous ... anytime there is a problem ... he has been involved," another neighbor said.

(Copyright 2006 WABC-TV)

Funeral Arrangements

A wake for Michael Reilly will be held Wednesday and Thursday from 2-5 p.m., and 7-10 p.m, at Van Emburgh Sneider Funeral Home in Ramsey, New Jersey. A procession and funeral mass are set for Friday, Sept. 1st, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Ramsey.

A wake for Lt. Howie Carpluk is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 31 and Friday, Sept. 1 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Chappy's Funeral Home, 200 East Main Street, East Islip, Long Island. The funeral is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. at Saint Mark's Church, 754 Montauk Highway, Islip, New York.

Memorial Information

Mike Reilly Memorial Fund
Attn: Commissar
2175 Walton Avenue
Bronx, NY 10453

Lt. Howie Carpluk Memorial Fund
1781 Monroe Avenue
Bronx, NY 10457