NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Hundreds are rallying behind a local fire lieutenant who has spoken out after a serious blaze back in May that sent him to the hospital twice and claimed the life of his fellow firefighter.
Lt. Samod Rankins posted a message on Facebook, recalling how the incident 51 days ago 'changed his life forever.'
On May 12, New Haven Fire crews responded to a house fire on Valley Street.
Lt. Rankins continues to mourn the loss of fallen firefighter Ricardo Torres, Jr. Both men were found unconscious in the home after a mayday call was put out by Torres.
Rankins said being severely injured in the fire, he has faced difficulties physically and emotionally.
"People will tell me that they can imagine how horrific it was, but they will never, in a million years, really imagine the depth of that horror," he wrote in the post.
In the heartbreaking note to Torres, Rankins said:
"I love you Ricardo and wish I can trade places with you everyday. Everything I do is for you. I’ll make sure your legacy is carried on."
Officials said Rankins remained at Yale New Haven Bridgeport Hospital until May 23. However, he returned at the beginning of June for complications to his lungs.
According to State Police, the fire remains under investigation by NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health), the group that investigates workplace incidents, firefighter fatalities and line of duty death.
CSP said it’s not unusual for a fire investigation to stretch for nearly 2 weeks, especially when a line of duty death has occurred. It can take months to even up to a year.
It is still unclear whether that contributed to firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr.’s death.
Insurance companies are also investigating, state police said.
While Lt. Rankins has a long road to recovery, he is turning his misfortune into an opportunity to help others.
The community raised $50,000 for Rankins' medical expenses. However, he decided to donate those funds to help pay for city residents interested in obtaining their EMT certification pursue a firefighter career.
"Nuke is just that type of person," his cousin Sean Hardy said. "He is a giver. He is a community supporter. He is a lover of friends. He is a lover of family."
Mayor Justin Elicker said in his view, Rankins' donation is a reflection of the values of the fire department and firefighters.
"Even in those times when individually people are suffering, they’re giving to our community," he added.
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