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Dog alerts Dix Hills couple to roof collapse

Denise Hatzis, with her dog Hercules outside of

Denise Hatzis, with her dog Hercules outside of their garage which collapsed in Dix Hills. (Jan. 29, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

Hercules was true to his name.

Before 3 a.m. Saturday, the 5-year-old Boxer began to bark, awakening Gus and Denise Hatzis in their Dix Hills home.

The canine's alert came only moments before ominous cracking sounds - and the collapse of the snow-covered roof over the Thornwood Drive home's garage.

Because of Hercules' barking, Gus Hatzis said, he went downstairs. There, he noticed a sagging wall in the garage and dashed to move the family's BMW sport-utility vehicle and Ford Explorer.

"I just said, 'Oh, let me get them out of here,' " he said.

"We heard a dripping noise," said Denise Hatzis, 43, who had followed her husband. "The dog was crying and crying."

Within minutes, the two heard the sound of timber cracking. Then, as their two children slept, the roof crashed to the floor of the garage, which is attached to the two-story home.

"It just shook the whole house," Denise Hatzis said, standing in her driveway as contractors worked to brace the frame of what used to be the garage. "He moved the cars and then, five minutes later, the whole thing caved in."

Saturday afternoon, the rear of the roof was on the ground behind the house and a large snow pile covered the garage floor. Remaining inside were bicycles, a barbecue, a treadmill and this season's most valued appliance - a snowblower.

Both Gus Hatzis, 45, and First Assistant Chief Tom Magno of the Dix Hills Fire Department said the snow's weight on the roof caused it to give way.

No one was injured. The fire department responded about 8:30 a.m. on a call about a natural gas leak. Magno said the collapse apparently "compromised" a gas line. "They're quite lucky they didn't have an explosion," he said.

The Town of Huntington fire marshal said the family had to leave the home because of possible structural damage and the utilities being shut off, Magno said.

The couple and their children, Nicholas, 10, and Danielle, 12, planned to stay with nearby relatives.

Hatzis, an attorney with an insurance company in Manhattan, juggled dealing with contractors and talking to adjusters. "If anything, it was just scary. It's overwhelming dealing with this."

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