Family and friends give a heartbreaking goodbye to a father and son who died while clinging to each other when Sandy floodwaters rushed into their home
- The father and son were covered in 12 feet of water within seconds of Sandy’s punch
- The son refused to leave his father’s side despite being ordered to evacuate
- Staten Island deaths now up to 19 after superstorm
- Father’s brother was a firefighter during 9/11 but said “nothing compares to this family loss”.
A tragic father and son, who died side by side when the violent floodwaters from Superstorm Sandy poured into their home, were buried together in an emotional funeral on Monday.
Staten Island native John Filipowicz and his son – also named John – were found clinging to each other in their basement as they protected themselves from a torrent that covered them with 12 feet of water in seconds.
John Jr., 20, was found drowned in his father’s arms after telling relatives he would not leave his father.
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Heartbreak: Christine Filipowicz, center, is comforted by her children Cali, 16, left, and Joseph, right, as they stand in front of the coffins of her husband and son
Salute: A Navy veteran stands at attention as the coffins of John K. Filipowicz and his 20-year-old son, John C. Filipowicz, are carried out of St. Charles Church in Staten Island
Solemn: Mourners embrace while a family member waits in a limo to head to the cemetery after the funeral
A father and son service was held Monday at St. Charles Church on Staten Island.
Dozens of mourners attended, including John Sr’s wife Christine and their surviving children Joseph – John Jr’s twin brother – and 16-year-old Cali.
DNA Info reports that the two men were huge fans of the New York Jets and were buried in the jerseys of their favorite players – Joe Klecko for John Sr. and Dustin Keller for John Jr.
Relatives said the two had an “incredible bond” and would never have been separated – in life or in death.
Blessing: A priest pours holy water on the coffins after the funeral service
Final resting place: Christine Filipowicz watches as US Marines salute her husband’s coffin at the funeral
John Sr, 51, stayed behind to take care of the house but his son refused to leave his side.
Among the mourners were John Sr.’s wife, Christine, and his two surviving children, Joseph, John Jr.’s twin, and 16-year-old Cali.
The fatalities were among Staten Island’s 19 deaths from Superstorm Sandy, more than any other New York borough. The total death toll in the US currently stands at 110.
Tragedy: Mourners hug after the funeral of their husbands who drowned together in the storm surge of Superstorm Sandy
Brother and uncle Neil Filipowicz stand in front of the house in Staten Island
Neil Filipowicz said the watermark was at least ten feet tall
Among the other victims were Connor and Brandon Moore, ages four and two, who were swept from their mother’s arms by a giant wave off the east coast of Staten Island.
The Filipowicz family lived on Fox Beach Avenue, which was among the hardest-hit streets on the island.
Neil Filipowicz, 46, brother of John Sr, told MailOnline that his brother chose to ignore evacuation warnings after last year’s Hurricane Irene and a 1992 storm.
He said: “I spoke to Joseph and he said that that day he was trying to get him to leave. He was on the phone telling John [Jr] leave the house. He said to him, ‘I’m not leaving daddy.’
“He was my rock”: Christine Filipowicz hugs a friend in front of her house
“There was no way he was going to leave his father at home. It was a bond, as your children should be, between a son and a father. They loved each other so much. They had an incredible bond.’
Neil, a retired New York City firefighter who served on 9/11, said the family was concerned when they were unable to reach the father and son during Monday night’s storm.
Neil went to their house at 7.30am the next day, looked around the house and noticed his brother’s keys and wallet were on the table, but there was nothing to be seen.
John jr pictured with a friend
Neil, Christine and other relatives then went through the local hostels and finding nothing Neil walked back to the house alone.
Neil said: “I crawled through a hole in the wall that the water made. I shone my flashlight from right to left and then I saw a hand on my left.
“I prayed it was a doll’s hand, but I reached into the water and grabbed it and my nephew came up.
“My brother came up too, he had his arm around the back of his head to shield it.
“I pulled both of their shirts at the same time and a neighbor came and helped me undress them and we laid them on the side of the house until they were removed by the National Guard and the coroner.
“My nephew held my brother and my brother hugged him to his chest like they knew they were going to die.
“My brother protected him. Her eyes were open. My brother looked intense like he was still trying to fight the end and be the father and protect his son. My nephew was so scared.
“The waterline was 10 feet, but I think it must have been much higher.”
Neil said the two men were in the basement to check.’
Family tragedy: John Filipowicz Sr. and his son John Filipowicz Jr. (right) were found buried under rubble in the basement of their home
Tribute outside the Staten Island, New York home of John K. Filipowicz and son John C. Filipowicz who drowned in the basement during flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The basement of the house where father and son drowned when the storm hit
He added: “I know my brother had some sandbags outside, he had used some expandable foam on the back door. No water came through.
“All the foam had to be cut out, he probably checked and maybe he heard a crack in the structure, but when that gave way, the sound of the water, that pressure.
“Some of the concrete blocks are over the other side of the basement. To be so pushed, they so shot [a] Cannon.’
John jr: Relatives said father and son had a special bond
Fighting back tears, Neil said he was on duty as a firefighter in New York City on 9/11, but that “because of the proximity, nothing compares.”
The neighbors knew John the Elder as the “mayor” of the street because he looked after them all by helping to clear the snow from the street in winter.
They, in turn, referred to him by the family nickname “Flip”. Paying tribute to his brother, Neil said: “My brother was all about family. Even our friends were considered family, it was like an extended family.
“He was a United States Marine after high school. He served in Greneda, then worked in the New York City Corrections Department and from there he retired and worked for the Concrete Laborers Union for a while.
“He was a big family man, loved his wife and children very much. In recent years he drove a bus for school children.
“He was a soccer coach, a basketball coach. He was also a baseball coach at school and a churchgoer, he was a regular at St. Charles Catholic Church.’
Neil described John Jr. as a “prince” who would do “everything for everyone”.
He said: “He was the heir to what his father was. He did everything right. He was never in trouble, he did everything right. He was devoted to his girlfriend. He went to college and took the Fire Department test, he tried to improve and he thought about being a nurse.’
Son John (left) refused to leave his father’s side
John Filipowicz Jr. (back right) here with relatives two years ago
Twin brothers: Joseph (right) told John to leave the house, but John jr replied, “I’m not leaving dad.”