Published: Friday, April 13, 2012, 7:27 AM
Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012, 10:36 AM
NEWARK — Newark Mayor Cory Booker was taken to a hospital Thursday night for treatment of smoke inhalation he suffered trying to rescue his next-door neighbors from their burning house.
“I just grabbed her and whipped her out of the bed,” Booker said in recounting the fire. Booker told The Star-Ledgerhe also suffered second-degree burns on his hand.
The fire started in a two-story building on Hawthorne Avenue in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood, shortly before the mayor arrived home after a television interview with News 12 New Jersey.
Five people were taken to the hospital for treatment: the mayor, a woman from the house and three members of his security detail. The woman was listed in stable condition at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston with burns to her back and neck.
Booker left his home shortly after 6 a.m. this morning to make an appearance on the CBS Morning Show in New York. The mayor will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. at his home to discuss the incident.
Newark Fire Director Fateen Ziyad said after the mayor arrived home he saw flames and smoke from the second floor of the building next to his home, and no residents outside,
Booker rushed in and his security detail followed him, Ziyad said.
As fire and EMS arrived, they administered oxygen to Booker and his security detail and took the mayor to the hospital. Newark Fire Chief John Centanni was at the hospital with Booker and said the mayor and his detail were “banged up” but would be fine. The residents of the building also appeared to be okay.
Centanni said the mayor executed a professional rescue and possibly saved the life of one resident.
After being released from the hospital, Booker recounted his experience at the fire and said he thought he might have to jump out of a window because of the heavy flames.
“We got everybody out of the house, but their daughter’s screaming, ‘I’m upstairs!’ ” he told The Star-Ledger.
One of his security officers, Detective Alex Rodriguez, tried to stop him from going back in.
Rodriguez had been posted at Booker’s house in the mayor’s absence. The other two detectives, Duran Santos and Al-Tariq Whitley, were accompanying Booker from the television interview.
“Now we actually get into a fight because his job is to protect me,” Booker said of Rodriguez.
Booker said when he reached the second floor, he was engulfed in flames and smoke.
“I suddenly had the realization that I can’t find this woman.” Booker said. “I look behind me and see the flames and I think “I’m not going to get out of here. Suddenly I was at peace with the fact that I was going to jump out the window.”
Then he heard her cries in a back bedroom.
“I just grabbed her and whipped her out of the bed,” Booker said. The two made their way downstairs, where they both collapsed, Booker said.
Rodriguez, who had helped others out of the house said when he saw the mayor go in, he thought his career in protection was over.
Thanks 2 all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation. We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to hospital. I will b ok12 Apr 12
Thanks everyone, my injuries were relatively minor. Thanks to Det. Alex Rodriguez who helped get all of the people out of the house.12 Apr 12
“Once he went in, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is it.’ ” Rodriguez, 39, said.
Before Booker arrived, Rodriguez had alerted two women who lived on the first floor of a fire and then rushed to the second floor, said Ziyad. There, an elderly man was inside trying to put out the fire, which had started in the kitchen.
Centanni said the mayor executed a professional rescue and possibly saved the life of one resident. “He was wrestling with his detail trying to keep him out of there,” Centanni said, but added that the mayor got past them.
“They made their way to the second floor. They worked their way through there. We had some flame and heavy smoke conditions,” Centanni said.
“It was a very successful rescue actually,” the fire chief added. “The situation could have been definitely a tragedy because it was just getting started.”
Before going to the hospital, Booker confirmed on his Twitter account that he suffered from smoke inhalation, and said he was being taken by EMS to University Hospital for treatment.
“Thanks 2 all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation,” Booker tweeted. “We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to hospital. I will b ok.”
Shortly after midnight, Booker tweeted an update, lauding the heroics of one of his security officers: “Thanks everyone, my injuries were relatively minor. Thanks to Det. Alex Rodriguez who helped get all of the people out of the house.”