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NYPD could have saved Queens family that drowned in basement

NYPD could have saved Queens family that drowned in basement

A grieving neighbor of a Queens family who died in their flooded basement apartment during Ida claims police passed up a chance to save the couple and toddler.

Nancy Pico, 49, told The Post NYPD officers were evacuating the building during Wednesday’s historic torrential flooding, hours before the couple were found dead — and she unsuccessfully pleaded with them to break down the family’s door.

Pico said she’s lived on the second floor of 44-60 64th Street in Flushing for seven years, and saw neighbor Ang Gelu Lama come home from work at 7 p.m. Wednesday, before the worst of the storm lashed the city.

Sometime around 10 p.m., eight NYPD officers, “strong men,” she said, came to evacuate the building as water rose, but the cops chose not to force their way into the apartment to evacuate Lama, 50, Mingma Sherpa, 48, and Lobsang Lama, 2, according to Pico.

On Sept. 1, Nancy Pico came to place a memorial to the family and baby that lost their lives in flooding.
Kevin C. Downs for The New York Post

“I asked the police to go inside” to check on the family, Pico said.

“They came in four or five cars. Then they come ask me, ‘You sure they are inside?’”

Ang Gelu Lama (l), Mingma Sherpa (r) and Lobsang Lama.were unable to escape the rising water.
Ang Gelu Lama (l), Mingma Sherpa (r) and Lobsang Lama were unable to escape the rising water.
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When Pico told police she saw Lama come home, they allegedly replied, “’No, we have to make sure,’” according to the concerned neighbor.

“I said, ‘Listen,’ I yell at him. ‘Go in, break it [the door], do something.’”

Cops allegedly claimed only firefighters could force their way in for a rescue — but the FDNY did not arrive until well after 2 a.m., according to Pico, and by that time the family had already drowned.

“I’m very angry at the police because….the fire department doesn’t come, okay, you take action,” the emotional woman said, breaking down as she talked about her neighbors, who immigrated from Nepal and had young Lobsang in the US, she said.

In a statement, the NYPD said officers arrived at the home at 10 p.m. and found water levels two feet above street level with the basement “completely submerged.”

“Responding officers immediately requested the response of ESU and NYC Fire Department dive teams to aid in the rescue effort. Upon arrival, ESU and Scuba Team personnel determined that the basement was unsafe for entry due to the high water levels and electricity still on throughout the residence,” NYPD spokesman Sgt. Brendan Ryan wrote.

Nancy Pico said she pleaded with police to save her neighbors.
Nancy Pico said she pleaded with police to save her neighbors.
KEVIN C DOWNS

“It was determined that the best course of action would be to wait for the water levels to recede back to the street level and then utilize a pump to remove the excess water from the basement.”

Water levels receded to the street after 2 a.m. Thursday, the spokesman said.

“At this time FDNY utilized a pump to remove water from the basement,” Ryan said. “Once approximately five feet of water was removed from the basement, FDNY rescue divers made entry and recovered three individuals who were pronounced deceased at the scene.”

The FDNY confirmed they found the family dead when they arrived at about 2 a.m.

Pico lit three candles for the victims at the scene of the tragedy Saturday and displayed a sign that read: “Your voice is my voice. No rule should prevail over human life. All government workers must!!! Be prepared to act in the face of eminent danger.”

Ang Gelu Lama, Mingma Sherpa, and Lobsang Lama died in the flooding at 44-60 64th St. in Flushing, Queens.
Ang Gelu Lama, Mingma Sherpa, and Lobsang Lama died in the flooding at 44-60 64th St. in Flushing, Queens.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

A relative of the landlord who also lived in a separate basement apartment at the address had tried to help the family Wednesday night, but couldn’t stave off the rising waters, Nico said.

Building inspectors said Thursday the home was “shaking” and “vibrating” due to flood damage, but on Friday inspectors were not able to enter due to an NYPD investigation, records showed.

An online fundraiser had garnered $23,000 in contributions for the family’s funeral expenses in less than 24 hours

“My Aunt, Mingma, was the sole provider for her family in Nepal, which includes her mother and three younger siblings. She has no immediate family in the United States,” the fundraising website read.

The makeshift memorial left in Queens for the lives lost.
The makeshift memorial left in Queens for the lives lost.
Kevin C. Downs for The New York Post

“We’re currently working with the Nepali consulate and embassy to bring her mother to the US for the funeral so she can see her daughter and her family one last time.”

Eleven of the 13 people that died from the storm in New York City accidentally drowned in basement apartments, according to the city’s medical examiner. In New Jersey, 27 people were killed by the storm.

https://nypost.com/2021/09/05/nypd-could-have-saved-queens-family-that-drowned-in-basement/