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Seneca Employees Save Lives of Children, 1 and 3

Two children in Holbrook are alive today quite possibly because of the heroic acts and instinctive training of a group of Seneca Middle School employees.

From left to right: Pat Hooper, Sachem Security, Anthony Etergineoso, Grounds/Facilities, Gemma Salvia, Principal, Craig Pagliuca, Custodian, Jim Enright, Head Custodian, Al Gallina, Grounds/Facilities, in the rear, John Ruggero, Vice Principal.
From left to right: Pat Hooper, Sachem Security, Anthony Etergineoso, Grounds/Facilities, Gemma Salvia, Principal, Craig Pagliuca, Custodian, Jim Enright, Head Custodian, Al Gallina, Grounds/Facilities, in the rear, John Ruggero, Vice Principal.
HOLBROOK, NY: Two children in Holbrook are alive today quite possibly because of the heroic acts and instinctive training of a group of Seneca Middle School employees.

Jim Enright doesn’t consider himself a hero, but his actions proved otherwise yesterday when he responded to a house fire developing on Mohawk Place, which runs adjacent to the Seneca school property, where Enright works as the chief custodian.

The fire broke out yesterday morning at around 8 a.m. while Enright was having breakfast in the back of the building with co-workers Craig Pagliuca, Al Gallina and Anthony Etergineoso. According to Enright he and his co-workers had grown used to seeing smoke wafting out of the chimney of the home at 378 Mohawk, but yesterday was different. One of the men noticed flames coming out of the top.

Enright and Gallina, two trained former volunteer firefighters with Islip and Ronkonkoma, respectively, headed to the house with Pagliuca and Etergineoso to see if they could stanch the flames. What they discovered when they got there, really raised the stakes. After getting inside the home and using their training to ventilate the smoke, they noticed two children inside. One, a girl, was strapped to a high-chair. The second, a boy, was standing near the door. The children turned out to be alone in the house.

“Our dilemma was the children were three and one,” Enright said. “They were home alone and there was something of a language barrier. I’m not sure of their nationality or ethnic background, but it was a little difficult to communicate with the three-year-old.”

At this point, according to Enright, the home was filling with smoke and was beginning to irritate their lungs. The men tried to extinguish the flames with a garden hose, but quickly discovered that the water supply to the hose was turned off.

In the meantime, Seneca Principal Gemma Salvia and Assistant Principal John Ruggero swept in behind the men to tend to the children. Salvia unstrapped the one-year-old girl while Ruggero corralled the three-year-old and they rushed them outside.

“[The kids] were great,” Salvia said. “They weren’t crying or anything, they were calm, they came willingly with us, which was wonderful. We didn’t have the issue with children being frightened to go with a stranger.”

Ultimately the men knocked the fire down by separating the logs burning in the fireplace. Enright said it would later re-ignite, but firefighters were on the scene to take care of it.

Outside it was cold and it had begun to rain. Salvia said they found some jackets on the couch and put them on the children. They began to ask the three-year-old if anyone else was in the house, while Enright and other volunteers searched each room to ensure that everyone was out.

“From what we could gather was that the grandmother was at the bus stop and the children were left as the grandmother took an older child to the bus stop,” Enright said.

Eventually the grandmother returned to the house and the children were put inside her car to get warm while firefighters and police took over the scene.

Suffolk Police would not identify the grandmother’s name, but said the matter had been turned over to Suffolk County Child Protective Services because the children were left alone in the house. A message to CPS was not returned.

For Enright, he wasn’t interested in making a judgement call on the situation, other than to say he was glad they arrived in time.

“My worry is just that they were left alone,” Enright said. “Had we not saw it I’m certain they would have succumbed to the smoke.”

“I’m just glad everything worked out okay and the kids are okay,” said Salvia. “The mom came in a couple of hours later and met with us and thanked us and was very appreciative.”

Enright confirmed that the mother was emotional when speaking to the spontaneous rescue crew at Seneca. He knew that the result could have ended in tragedy.

“People are calling us heroes,” Enright said. “I don’t look at it that way. I look at it like two kids are gonna go to sleep tonight. The good guys won one today.”
Beth April 24, 2013 at 03:50 PM
How can someone leave these babies unattended? Even if it was a few minutes at the bus stop, bring them with you! They're babies! Thank God for the heroic action of the Seneca staff!
Jenn April 24, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Thank goodness someone was paying attention - what if no one happened to be looking? OMG
doug April 24, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Doesn't make any difference what these guys/gals call themselves..........thank you for your actions. You did good.
Al Gallina April 24, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Enright was Central Islip FD, Gallina was Farmingville FD. Other than that, great article! -Al Gallina
Diann Gordon April 25, 2013 at 10:23 AM
This is what is wrong with the world today. Leaving 1 & 3 yr old babies alone! Thanks goodness for these heroic employees!!!
Marianne Cruz April 25, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Great job! Schools and all of their employees are so important to our communities!
Cindy Halpern April 25, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Good job!

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