NYPD Cop Died Protecting Family From Rising Waters

Staten Island is still dealing with the aftermath of severe flooding from Sandy. In some low-lying areas of the borough, houses were underwater almost to their rooftops. One police officer died in the deluge after saving six people.

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During today's program, we've told you the stories of just a couple of the dozens of people who were killed by this week's storm, and we end this hour with one more. NPR's Joel Rose has this remembrance of an off-duty police officer who died trying to protect his family.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The storm surge from Sandy hit Staten Island hard and fast with tragic results. Violent waves crashed onto the island's southern shore, flooding dozens of homes near the sea, including one red brick bungalow on Doty Avenue.

IRENE KASPRZAK: No gas, no electric.

ROSE: Irene Kasprzak walks down a hallway coated in mud and debris. Floodwater tossed the refrigerator on its side and soaked everything in sight. But the Kasprzak family lost much more than just their possessions.

KASPRZAK: Mess. No house, no son.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)

ROSE: Irene's son Artur Kasprzak died in the flood. Kasprzak was 28, an officer in the New York Police Department. He was not working during the storm. Instead, he was home with his family. When the water started to rise, Kasprzak's sister Martha said Artur helped get the whole family up into the attic, including his 15-month-old nephew.

MARTHA: We all did, but then we didn't see dad. And my brother, who died, he was yelling for dad, and he went looking for him. My dad came through the back of the house, went outside and came in. My brother never made it.

ROSE: Artur Kasprzak ducked into the basement, probably to look for his father. When he didn't come back, the family called 911. The police sent out a rescue team by boat to try to find him, but police say they couldn't get into the house because of a downed electric wire in the water. Kasprzak's body was discovered in the basement the next morning.

MARTHA: We just cannot believe it really happened. We can't. Even though we saw him yesterday in the hospital.

ROSE: Kasprzak's older sister Agatha says her brother was a generous man who was devoted to his family and his job.

AGATHA: When he joined police academy, he was in his own element. You know, he totally loved his job. He's always ready. Sometimes he didn't sleep, or he slept just a few hours. Every time they called him, he was there. You know, he's very devoted. We will miss him so much.

ROSE: The Kasprzaks' neighbors say they, too, will miss a man who was always looking for ways to help out. Sergei Chuprik and Margaret Kaminksi live across the street from the Kasprzaks.

SERGEI CHUPRIK: Two years ago, my son got stuck in snow when we had a huge snowstorm. And he and, you know, his friend or brothers went out to push his car out because it was a huge snowstorm. Very helpful guy.

MARGARET KAMINKSI: Always there for you. And for my little - I have two kids. Like older, you know, older brother to Bianca, to my little one. So, you know, always on the street, always with Bianca. I don't know how I'm going to, you know, break the news to her.

ROSE: Artur Kasprzak's mother, Irene, and family friend Krystina Nawrot say they'll remember him as a hero.

KRYSTINA NAWROT: His whole life was like that. He was a very good person.

IRENE: And very good son.

NAWROT: The best son, brother.

IRENE: Very, very - brother.

NAWROT: And he's such a big loss, because he was looking for his father. Like I said, he was a hero to the last minute, to the last second.

ROSE: The family has yet to announce plans for a funeral. Everyone on this block of Doty Avenue knows there's a daunting challenge ahead to rebuild this flooded neighborhood, a task that will be that much harder because Artur Kasprzak isn't around to help. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

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