At Sandy’s height, the last words Joseph Filipowicz heard from his twin brother were, “I’m not leaving Daddy” … Hours later, their bodies were pulled from the basement
- The father and son were covered in 12 feet of water within seconds of Sandy’s punch
- The family describes the horrifying moment they discovered their bodies in the dark basement
- 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 son has been found drowned in his father’s arms in the freezing waters of Superstorm Sandy after telling relatives ‘I will not leave Daddy’.
John Filipowicz, 51, and his son John, 20, were found in their basement sheltering from the stream, which covered them with 12 feet of water in seconds.
Relatives said the two had an “incredible bond” and would never have been separated – in life or in death.
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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
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
“He was my rock”: Christine Filipowicz hugs a friend in front of her house
John the Elder stayed behind to babysit his home in Staten Island, New York, but his son refused to leave because he wanted to be by his side.
The death means that John the Elder’s wife, Christine, has lost her husband and their other two children, Joseph, a twin to John junior, and Cali, 16, have lost a sibling and their father.
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 108.
Among the other victims were Connor and Brandon Moore, four and two, who were swept from Mother Glenda’s arms by a huge wave on the east coast of the island.
John jr: Relatives said father and son had a special bond
The Filipowicz family lives on Fox Beach Avenue, which was among the hardest-hit streets on Staten Island, where another 51-year-old, unidentified man died.
Neil Filipowicz, 46, the brother of John the Elder, told MailOnline that his brother chose to ignore evacuation warnings after last year’s weathering Hurricane Irene and a 1992 storm.
The family today toured the devastating crime scene where loved ones were killed.
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 (the son) to leave the house. He said to him, “I’m not leaving daddy”.
“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.
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.
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.”
“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 because they were “checking things” – others on the street narrowly escaped doing the exact same thing.
Neil said: “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 thus pushed they shot like cannons.’
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.
John jr pictured with a friend
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 school baseball coach and a churchgoer, he was a regular at St. Charles Catholic Church.” Neil described the son as a “prince” who would do “anything 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.’
Speaking to MailOnline outside her home, Christine wiped away tears as she said she hadn’t fully accepted what had happened to her family.
She said: “I’m only strong for my kids. It’s a shock, I go in and out. I’m just trying to hold it together. I have a very good family. “John meant the world to me.
“He was my rock. He was my rock. He was a family man and my poor son was only 20 years old.”