Ida: Narrow escapes, deadly delays and a husband’s sacrifice

Sep 2, 2021, 10:03 PM | Updated: Sep 3, 2021, 10:27 am
United States Geological Survey workers push a boat as they look for residents on a flooded street ...

United States Geological Survey workers push a boat as they look for residents on a flooded street along the Raritan River in Somerville, N.J.., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. A stunned U.S. East Coast faced a rising death toll, surging rivers, tornado damage and continuing calls for rescue Thursday after the remnants of Hurricane Ida walloped the region with record-breaking rain. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

(AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

NEW YORK (AP) — Tales of selflessness and heroism — and of deadly delays and heartbreaking missed opportunities — are emerging after the remnants of Hurricane Ida, the deadliest storm the nation has seen since 2017, pummeled the Northeast with record-breaking rain that flooded roads and houses, killing dozens.

Earlier, Ida laid waste to parts of Louisiana and Mississippi after blowing ashore as one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S.

Here are some of the stories of the victims — and of those who narrowly escaped:

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QUAKERTOWN, Pa.

As their vehicle filled with floodwater in the far northern suburbs of Philadelphia late Wednesday, Donald Bauer helped his wife Katherine climb through a busted back windshield.

“My father started pushing my mom out, and telling her to go and go and go,” said the couple’s son, Darby Bauer. “All she remembers from being pushed out of the car was him touching her one last time, shouting at her to go.”

Katherine Bauer clung to a tree and watched the rising waters carry their Mazda SUV out of sight. She was rescued about an hour later.

Donald Bauer’s body was found the next morning. He was still in the vehicle.

The couple had attended their daughter’s college volleyball game and were trying to return to their Perkiomenville home in the worsening storm when their Mazda died and began to float.

Darby Bauer said his father, a 65-year-old retired school bus driver, “100%” saved his mother’s life.

“Without his help, I don’t think she would’ve gotten out of the car,” he said.

Donald Bauer “had one of the biggest hearts we knew,” his son said. “He was selfless down to his last act.”

— Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press

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ELIZABETH, N.J.

Four people died in this small, industrial city when the swollen Elizabeth River swept through an apartment complex, trapping people in their homes. But there were also lifesaving rescues.

Greg Turner’s 87-year-old mother called him from the flooded building complex at 8 p.m. Wednesday to tell him water was “shooting into the apartment.” He tried to race over from his home in another part of town, but floodwaters blocked his path.

Turner hailed firefighters in the street, who told him, “We’re swamped, but we’ll try to get you over there.”

Meanwhile, the water kept rising.

By the time rescuers reached Turner’s mother a little before midnight, the water was up to her neck. To reach her, they had to cut a hole through the floor of the apartment above hers and pull her through the ceiling.

“She was standing in a sink” to keep above the rising water, Turner said. “At 87 years old.”

“She lost everything,” Turner said. “I’m going over to the bank to get some money to buy her some shoes, some clothes, some underwear. We’ve got to go get her medicine, everything.”

— David Porter, Associated Press

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NEW YORK

Pinned in the door of her boyfriend’s sub-basement apartment in Queens, Darlene Hsu struggled to keep her head above water and screamed for help.

Friends, neighbors and building staff dialed 911 for 40 minutes, but couldn’t get through, said her ex-husband, Dennis Hsu. He said Darlene’s boyfriend — the superintendent of the building — ultimately called a friend on the police force for help, and emergency responders arrived about 40 minutes after that. By then, it was too late.

Dennis Hsu said he’s angry about the delays — angry the 911 system failed, and angry at people who ignored storm warnings and required rescue from flooded roadways, which diverted emergency resources.

“What are you guys doing on the highway? You’re putting other people’s lives at risk,” he said.

Darlene Hsu had worked for a property management company and enjoyed sunbathing, swimming, arts and crafts and playing with children.

Hsu described his former wife as a “very kind and lovable person.”

— Susan Haigh, Associated Press

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LAFITTE, La.

Nora Indovina was desperate to find someone to evacuate her mother before Hurricane Ida came ashore — and thought she had succeeded.

“Last time we talked, I told her to get her stuff together because they’re coming to get you,” Indovina said. “I guess they couldn’t get to her.”

Emily Boffone, 65, became trapped in her Lafitte home and died in the floodwaters. Her two beloved dogs survived the storm.

Boffone had worked for the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office, first in tax collection and later at booking intake, before retiring five years ago.

She had decided to ride out Ida because her neighbor was also staying, and she thought he could help her in an emergency, Indovina said. But the water rose so fast on Sunday that the neighbor wasn’t able to get to her.

On Friday and Saturday, Indovina had been calling officials, trying to find someone who could help her evacuate. “I told them she was on oxygen, so she wouldn’t be OK if the power goes out. They said they would get her out,” said Indovina, speaking by phone from the car as she and her family made their way from Missouri to Louisiana.

“She was the best mom in the entire world,” she said.

— Travis Loller, Associated Press

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This item has been corrected to show that Emily Boffone was 65, not 55.

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NEW YORK

The storm was raging, and Knrishah “Nick” Ramskriet, who lived in a basement apartment in Queens, called a friend to say he and his family were leaving.

He wasn’t heard from again.

“We thought he was OK. But my son called him the next morning and couldn’t reach him,” said his friend’s mother, Ahilia Arjun.

Later came the heartbreaking news: Nick and his mother never made it out of their flooded apartment.

He had ambitions of going to school to learn plumbing or some other trade, or maybe to become an engineer, Arjun said.

“Nick was like a son to me,” she said.

— Bobby Caina Calvan, Associated Press

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WOODBURY, Conn.

Sgt. Brian Mohl, a 26-year veteran of the Woodbury department, called for help about 3:30 a.m. Thursday. His cruiser had been swept away.

Police searched the area with divers, helicopters, boats and drones. Finally, after daybreak, they found his body in the swollen river. First responders worked on him, but he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

“His tragic loss is a reminder of the dangers that state troopers and first responders put themselves in every day when responding to emergencies, and they deserve our utmost respect,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said in a written statement. “Sergeant Mohl served the people of Connecticut with honor and commitment, and for that he will have our eternal gratitude and respect.”

— Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press

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NEW YORK

Roberto Bravo survived a serious case of COVID-19 last year, only to perish in his flooded basement apartment.

The 66-year-old retired construction worker had temporarily moved into the Brooklyn apartment building owned by his brother, Pablo Bravo, who had been helping Roberto out.

The brothers had come to the United States from Ecuador in the 1980s to make a life for themselves.

“We’re the story of foreigners, immigrants, come here to make it, live a decent life,” Pablo Bravo said Friday as he and his family arrived to clean up the apartment. “Basically, we came here not only to grow ourselves, but also to contribute and grow the country. Hard-working people.”

Roberto, who was divorced with two adult children, enjoyed spending time at a nearby senior citizen center. He had spent weeks in the hospital battling COVID-19 last year.

“I’m very sad to see him go this way,” Pablo Bravo said. “To look at the room where he was, to look at the room where it happened , it gives me the chills. … I’m still shocked. I don’t know how I am going to take it tomorrow, or next week.”

— David Martin, Associated Press

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WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y.

Four storm victims have been identified in suburban Westchester County, including a rabbi and two computer science professors at Iona College who didn’t make it home Wednesday after teaching their classes. The body of Ken Bailie was found, while his wife, Fran, who authorities believed was with him in the car, was missing and feared dead.

The college’s president issued a statement asking for prayers for the “devoted” professors.

Authorities also recovered the body of 69-year-old Samuel Weissmandl, who had been driving from Rockland County to his home in Mount Kisco when he approached rising flood waters. He called his family to say he was having difficulty in the storm, but they could not get to him in time.

His vehicle ultimately became submerged on an entrance ramp to the Saw Mill River Parkway. Authorities found his body near Route 119 in Elmsford.

Weissmandl was the son of Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl, who was known for his efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.

— Jim Mustian, Associated Press

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Ida: Narrow escapes, deadly delays and a husband’s sacrifice