Pa. Firefighter Recalls Being Rescued After Collapse

New Castle Lt. John Onufrak Sr. was just feet away from the door, but was trapped under a pile of rubble and surrounded by flames from a three-alarm commercial fire.

Onufrak talk to WTAE-TV the day after he almost lost his life, but was luckily saved by fellow firefighters.

"It happened so fast that it just knocked me, fortunately towards the door. I was maybe about two feet inside door, but I was buried and stuck," he told the news station. "The guys said they could see my one hand and my head."

When crews arrived at the former home of the Black Whale bar at 105 East Washington Street Sunday night, flames were already shooting from the upper floor windows.

Onufrak brought a handline through the first-floor entrance to fight the flames when the collapse occurred.

"All of the sudden, the floor collapsed under Lt. Onufrak and the second floor fell down on him, which entrapped him," Fire Chief Tom Maciarello said.

While they were rescuing him, firefighters ran into issues with no time to spare.

"As we were attempting to pull him out, his air pack got caught," he said. "As we were pulling him, his air pack was pulling up against him. We had to cut the straps of the air pack."

Onufrak was taken to an awaiting ambulance that transported him to Jameson Hospital. He has since been released.

The veteran firefighter said that he is lucky to be alive and thankful for the efforts of his comrades. He said that the feeling after he was taken out of the building was unlike anything he has experienced.

"When I first came out, I was totally drained, I could barely walk. I was just totally drained of any energy."

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

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