MANHATTAN, Ny. – Recently suspended NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams is being hailed a hero for actions he took during an apartment fire last Thursday in which 22 people were injured and at least 2 are still missing. The seven-alarm fire occurred on Second Avenue and was the result of an explosion. The aftermath left three buildings destroyed and a fourth severely damaged.
Manhattan resident Keith Ramsay, who witnessed the fire, told ABC News he spotted Brian Williams on the sidewalk across the street from the blaze. “He was wearing a reddish-brown track suit and, I think, drinking a latte,” Ramsay recalled. Moments later, Williams personally recounted to ABC News, “I heard screams coming from inside the building and was overcome with a sense of urgency to act. Drawing on my experience as a volunteer firefighter, I rushed toward the inferno. I was able to use a metal trashcan lid to break a window before hurling myself into the building. I distinctly remember the hotness of the air as dense smoke engulfed me.” Several minutes passed before Williams emerged from the blaze, covered in a thick layer of ash and carrying three young children in his arms.
This reporter spoke with Brian Williams in a phone interview Saturday night, in which the suspended news anchor recalled what he saw inside the towering inferno. “As I was going room to room, trying to locate these terrified children, I was seeing things of a suspicious nature. Things like rubber tubing, broken glass beakers, and empty packages of cold medicine littered the floor. Speaking as a veteran journalist, it was clear to me that this fire was the direct result of a meth lab explosion.”
The New York City Fire Department has not confirmed or denied Williams’ allegations that the fire was linked to an existing methamphetamine lab in 121 Second Avenue. Instead investigators are looking at a blast of gas which erupted from a corrupt gas line somewhere in the building as the cause of the seven-alarm fire.
Speaking with George Stephanopoulos this morning on ABC’s This Week, Brian Williams detailed the events leading up to the harrowing rescue. “We were flying low over the city, coming up from the south above Second Ave in a U.S. Navy Black Hawk helicopter. I was embedded with six members of SEAL Team Four and we were en route to 121 Second Avenue, where intelligence assets on the ground had identified an ISIS bomb making operation.”
By the time the helicopter reached 121 Second Avenue, the building was already in flames. “The chopper hovered over the rooftop – I remember feeling the cold New York air on my face as the Black Hawk’s side doors rolled open -allowing just enough time for members of SEAL Team Four and myself to rappel onto the roof.” Williams, who appeared on This Week wearing a bulletproof PRESS vest and a Kevlar helmet with a mounted GoPro camera, told Stephanopoulos the SEAL team used a “satchel charge” to blow a hole in the building’s roof before dropping down into the fifth floor.
“We went floor by floor in search of the elusive ISIS bomb makers, all the while battling extreme heat and choking smoke. At one point we lost a member of the SEAL team who’s name I can’t reveal due to matters of national security- we lost him when the staircase he was standing on became engulfed in flames and collapsed. In the heat of the moment, my adrenaline pumping, I leapt towards the collapsed staircase, retrieving the fallen soldier’s M4 assault rifle and pressed forward with the SEAL team.”
In the end, Williams said no ISIS members were located in the raid. However, he credited himself with the successful rescue of six children from the blaze. Four girls and two boys all under the age of eleven, including one with special needs.