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Off-duty FDNY captain saves 97-year-old man from burning Garden City home

Scene of the house Tuesday morning.

Scene of the house Tuesday morning. Credit: Nina Ruggiero

GARDEN CITY - FDNY Captain Frank Leto, 53, was at his Garden City home Monday evening riding out Hurricane Sandy with his wife and son when he heard a loud boom. Thinking a tree fell, he checked his house before spotting the glow of flames from a house on nearby Kenwood Road.

Leto and his son, Matthew, 17, ran to the house. A fire had started and quickly spread after a fallen tree dislodged a gas line and caused an explosion.

"It was pretty much leveled," Leto said. "There were neighbors standing outside so I asked if anyone was inside the house and they told me an old man was in there."

Leto found an opening and crawled in.

"I felt his leg and I grabbed it," he said. "He was alive, so I pulled him out and handed him to my son, who carried him next door."

Matthew told his father the man had scrapes and bruises but seemed to be in stable condition.

"I don't know how he survived," Leto said. "The place was practically pancaked to the ground. He was very fortunate to be in that spot."

Leto, who is still active with the FDNY, but no longer fights fires, suffered a minor injury to his knee.

"I was fortunate to be able to help him out and Matthew did a really great job," he said of his son, a Garden City High School senior and varsity football captain.

The Garden City Fire Department and neighboring fire departments were still on the scene putting out the flames around 10 p.m. Monday night. Large trees were down all over the area and residents were advised to seek shelter in their basements.

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