The Wall Street Journal - April 17, 2012by SEAN GARDINER, DANNY GOLD and ALISON FOX
As he was placed in an ambulance, it appeared his condition wasn't serious. "Paramedics were working on Lt. Nappi and speaking to him the whole time when he experienced a cardiac event," Mr. Cassano said.
Lt. Nappi, of Farmingville, N.Y., was taken to Woodhull Medical Center where he was pronounced dead just after 3:30 p.m. His death marks the first firefighter fatality in the line of duty at an active scene since 47-year-old Paul Warhola suffered a stroke in August 2009.
"He was an extraordinary firefighter and an extraordinary fire officer," Mr. Cassano said of Lt. Nappi, whom he knew as "Richie" since they served together in Manhattan.
"He was a leader that people would follow," Mr. Cassano added. "He was dedicated, he was brave, he was committed to the fire service."
The second-floor fire broke out around 1 p.m. in a warehouse rented by L and J Restaurant Manufacturing Import. The company couldn't be reached for comment Monday.
The building's superintendent, Bernard Joseph, 50, said the company had moved in about a year ago and packed the facility. "Lots of restaurant equipment in big cardboard boxes," Mr. Joseph said. "Every square inch inside is full."
Mr. Cassano said the fire grew into a three-alarm blaze, with 120 firefighters bringing it under control around 4 p.m. Eight other firefighters were treated for injuries, including one hospitalized for heat exhaustion on a day when temperatures surpassed the 80-degree mark.
At the time Lt. Nappi suffered his attack, he was supervising firefighters outside the warehouse. Mr. Cassano said the incident shows "there are no mundane fires."
Residents of Lt. Nappi's Long Island neighborhood were standing in driveways and on lawns, embracing each other through tears on Monday.
Marie Merkle, who lives around the corner, said Lt. Nappi was the type of neighbor who would shovel driveways in the winter.
"Always devoted to his kids, always working in his yard--it's impeccable," she said. "Just the sweetest, nicest guy."
A Bronx native, Lt. Nappi was the married father of a 12-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a hospital press conference. He joined the FDNY in 1994.
Although Lt. Nappi was off duty on Sept. 11, 2001, the mayor said he responded to the World Trade Center and served heroically. His firehouse at the time, on Duane Street, was just blocks from the site of the attacks.
In 2007, Lt. Nappi was promoted and transferred to Engine 237 in Bushwick.
In addition to serving in the FDNY for the past 17 years, Lt. Nappi was also a volunteer firefighter and a deputy chief instructor at the Suffolk County fire academy in Yaphank, N.Y.
"Sad day," Mr. Bloomberg said. "The only good news is he was a lieutenant who trained others, and everything he gave to the fire department will continue for another generation."
Lt. Nappi, is survived by his wife, Mary Anne, and their children Catherine and Nicholas.
-- Will James contributed to this report.