Monday, December 22, 2014

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Family, Friends Remember Fallen FDNY Firefighter

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A city fire lieutenant killed in the line of duty last weekend was laid to rest Thursday on Staten Island.

Family, friends and fellow firefighters said goodbye to 40-year-old Gordon Matthew Ambelas.

Thousands gathered in Staten Island as his flag-draped casket was brought out of Saint Clare's Church in Great Kills.

"To lose somebody like this is devastating to all of us," said Ed Mehnert of the New York City Fire Department. "You don't have to meet somebody. It doesn't matter where it is. It's devastating."

Ambelas was killed battling flames inside a 19th-floor apartment in Williamsburg.

The medical examiner said he died from smoke inhalation and burns.

Firefighters from across the country came to pay their respects, adding that the loss is felt by every one who wears the uniform.

"It's impressive, but it isn't surprising," said Mary Turner of the Indianapolis Fire Department. "Like my husband said, the family feeling among firefighters just stretches nationwide. Worldwide, actually."

Officials said the fire was caused by a pinched electrical cord.

Ambelas had been with the fire department for 14 years. He was promoted to lieutenant 10 months ago.

He was recently honored for rescuing a Brooklyn boy who was nearly killed when he got stuck in a rolling gate. The boy's father, Abraham Gottlieb, was there to pay his respects.

"It's a very sad day, to stay for the funeral for the guy who rescued my son," Gottlieb said.

Mourners heard from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Daniel Nigro, as well as close friends remembering Ambelas as a great firefighter, a family man and a Jets fan.

The mayor described Ambelas' heroism, from helping in the aftermaths of the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Sandy.

"Reaching a level of bravery that few citizens can even imagine," de Blasio said.

Ambelas leaves behind a wife and two young daughters. He was memorialized for his role as a loving husband and doting father. Margaret Gulliksen, a family friend, read a heartfelt eulogy on behalf of his widow.

"I was lucky to call you my husband for 10 years," Gulliksen read. "I used to always say, 'Sleep with the angels,' and now you are."

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