The Harlem Explosion Faces Of The Tragedy

article-vistimsweb1-0313Griselde Camacho made Hunter College always feel like a second home for its students with her beaming smile.

The 44-year-old sergeant with Hunter College’s public safety patrol was among the seven confirmed dead in Wednesday’s horrific east Harlem explosion — a figure that could rise as recovery efforts stretch into a second day.

Rosaura Barrios Vasquez, 44, and her 4 year-old daughter, also named Rosaura. The older Rosaura perished in an explosion and building collapse at 1644 and 1646 Park Ave. in East Harlem.

explosion“She was one of the few security guards who’d say goodnight,” student Molly Ryan, 28, said of Camacho. “She was always ready with a smile and would say, ‘Get home safe.'”

andreas-panagopoulos

Rescuers using spotlights and cadaver dogs searched for survivors into the morning after two Park Ave. buildings were reduced to scraps — the flames, dust and smoke billowing high into the sky as distraught relatives scoured area hospitals for their loved ones and others began mourning those who couldn’t get out of the blast zone in time.

Authorities identified four of the seven victims who died in the blast as Camacho, Carmen Tanco, 67, a dental hygienist, Rosaura Hernandez-Barrios, 21 and Andreas Panagopoulos, 43. The four other names have yet to be released by officials, but sources said three males and one female were recovered at the scene near E. 116 St. As many as eight people are still reported missing.

Andreas Panagopouolos, 43, died in the East Harlem explosion.

“Griselde was a well-liked member of our community, a respected officer and a welcoming presence at our Silberman building,” Hunter College President Jennifer Raab said in a statement. “We also know this is a difficult time for all those who knew and worked with Sergeant Camacho.”

A woman frantically trying to reach a family member; victims being transported on stretchers; crews work on putting out the fire.

Wednesday’s explosion at 1644 Park Ave. in Harlem claimed the life of Griselde Camacho, a Hunter College safety patrol sargeant.

explosion1Meanwhile, Diana Cortez’s long day of searching for her cousin, Tanco, ended in sorrow when police confirmed she had died.

At one point, Cortez, 56, rushed to Harlem Hospital in hopes of finding Tanco.

victimsweb14n-2-web“I’m just in total disbelief,” Cortez said Wednesday night, after learning of her cousin’s fate. “I just spoke to her on Saturday.”

Friends of Tanco marveled at the senior citizen’s generosity and vibrancy, especially at her advanced age.

“She always had her shopping cart full of food with her,” said Irene Riley, 53, who works at a the Madison Avenue Laundromat. “Whenever people needed food she’d deliver it. And she still worked. She still had a job, even at her age. That’s the kind of person she was.”

Isabel Villaverde, 51, a friend of Tanco’s, described her as “a beautiful person.”

“I was in shock no one believes this could happen to someone you love,” Villaverde said. “It’s unexpected and a terrible pain. But at least she’s in a better place now.”

Anxiety has been ratcheted up among those who have yet to locate their loved ones.

Alexis (Jordy) Salas, 22, lived on the second floor of 1644 Park Ave. If he was at home at the time of the blast, he wouldn’t have escaped, officials said.

The CUNY John Jay student, aspiring lawyer and expectant father was sleeping in his apartment when the building crumbled. His wife Jennifer Salas is five months pregnant and struggling to keep her anguish at bay, relatives said.

“We’re devastated. We have hope that we can find him,” sister-in-law Jessica Ortiz said Thursday. “We’re trying to stay strong for my sister and her baby.”

The family plans on visiting area hospitals for a second straight day in hopes of a mini-miracle.

The sudden eruption followed by fast-rising flames left no time for residents to flee the burning building, Mayor de Blasio said.

“There was no warning in advance,” de Blasio said. “It’s a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication.”

But the Salas family will maintain their cautious optimism until officials tell them otherwise.

“We’re going to do some prayers,” Ortiz said.

Photo credit: 1) Rosaura Hernandez, 21 perished in an explosion and building collapse in East Harlem. 2) Rosaura Barrios Vasquez, 44, and her 4 year-old daughter, also named Rosaura. The older Rosaura perished in an explosion and building collapse at 1644 and 1646 Park Ave. in East Harlem. 3) Andreas Panagopoulos, 43, who died in the explosion in Harlem on Wednesday, is seen with his wife Liseth Perez. 4) Wednesday’s explosion at 1644 Park Ave. in Harlem claimed the life of Griselde Camacho, a Hunter College safety patrol sargeant. 5) Dental hygienist Carmen Tanco 67, was confirmed dead by officials. Her family went to area hospitals looking for Tanco on Wednesday but their search ended in tragedy.

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