In Sandy’s heyday, 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.
- Father and son were covered in 12 feet of water seconds after Sandy struck
- The family describe the horrific moment they discovered their bodies in the dark basement
- Son refused to leave his father’s side despite warning to evacuate
- Deaths on Staten Island now until 19 after super storm
- Dad’s brother was a firefighter during 9/11 but says ‘nothing compares’ to this loss of family
A son has been found drowned in his father’s arms in the freezing waters of Super Hurricane Sandy after he told loved ones: ‘I’m not leaving dad’.
John Filipowicz, 51, and his son John, 20, were found still clinging to each other in their basement as they shielded themselves from the torrent that covered them in 12ft of water in a few seconds.
Relatives said the two had an ‘incredible bond’ and would never have been apart – 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 debris in the basement of their home
Tribute left in front of the Staten Island, New York home of John K Filipowicz and his son John C Filipowicz who drowned in the basement during flooding caused by Super Hurricane Sandy.
The basement of the house where father and son drowned when the storm hit
Brother and Uncle Neil Filipowicz standing 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 kisses a friend outside her home
John the Elder stayed behind to watch over 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, lost her husband, and his two other children, Joseph, a twin of John Junior, and Cali, 16, lost a brother and a father.
The deaths were among 19 deaths on Staten Island from Super Hurricane Sandy, more than any other New York City borough. The total death toll in the United States currently stands at 108.
Other victims included Connor and Brandon Moore, four and two, who were swept from mum Glenda’s arms by a giant wave on the east coast of the island.
John jr: Relatives say father and son have a special bond
The Filipowicz family lives on Fox Beach Avenue, one of Staten Island’s hardest hit streets, where another unidentified 51-year-old man died.
Neil Filipowicz, 46, John’s eldest brother, told MailOnline his brother decided to ignore evacuation warnings after Hurricane Irene last year and a storm in 1992.
The family today went to inspect the devastating scene where their loved ones were killed.
He said, “I spoke to Joseph and he said that day he tried to get him to leave. He was on the phone telling John (the son) to leave the house. He told her: ‘I’m not leaving dad’.
“There was no question of him leaving his father at home. It was a bond like it’s supposed to be with your children, 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 became concerned when they couldn’t reach their father or son during Monday night’s storm.
Neil went to their house the next day at 7:30 a.m., looked around the house and noticed his brother’s keys and wallet were on the table, but there was no sign of them .
Neil, Christine and other relatives then toured the local hostels and when they found nothing, Neil returned home alone.
Neil said: ‘I crawled through a hole in the wall that the water had made. I shone my flashlight from right to left and then I saw a hand, to my left.
“I was praying it was a doll’s hand, but I reached out in the water and grabbed it and my nephew came over.
“My brother came too, he had his arm around the back of his head, protecting him.
Son John (left) refused to leave his father’s side
John Filipowicz Jr (rear, right) pictured here with parents two years ago
Twin brothers: Joseph (right) urged John to leave the house but John jr replied ‘I’m not leaving daddy’
“I was pulling them both at the same time, by their shirts and a neighbor came to help me take them off and we put them to the side of the house until they were moved by the National Guard and the medical examiner.
“My nephew was holding my brother and my brother was hugging him to his chest like they knew they were dying.
“My brother was protecting him. Their eyes were open. My brother looked intense, like he was still trying to fight the end, to be the father and to protect his son. My nephew was so scared.
“The lane 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 had narrow gaps as they did the exact same thing.
Neil said: “I know my brother had sandbags outside, he used stretch foam on the back door. No water went through it.
“All the foam had to be cut out, he was probably checking and maybe he heard a crack in the structure, but once that broke, the rush of water, that pressure.
Some of the cinder blocks are on the other side of the basement. To be pushed like that, they fired like cannons.
Fighting back tears, Neil said he had been on duty as a firefighter in New York on 9/11, but “nothing compares to it because of the closeness”.
Neighbors knew John the Elder as the “mayor” of the street because he looked after them all by helping clear the snow from the street in the 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 extended family.
“He was a United States Marine out of high school. He served in Greneda then he worked in the New York Corrections Department and from there he retired and worked for the Concrete Laborers Union for a time.
“He was a great family man, he loved his wife and children very much. For the past few years, he has driven a school bus.
“He was a football coach, a basketball coach. He was also a school baseball coach and attended church. He was a regular at St Charles Catholic Church. Neil described John the Son as a ‘prince’ who did ‘anything for anyone’.
He said, “He was the heir of who the father was. He did everything right. He never got in trouble, he did everything right. He was devoted to his girlfriend. He went to college and took the fire department test, he was trying to better himself and thought he was going to be a nurse.
Speaking to MailOnline outside her home, Christine wiped away tears as she said she hadn’t fully come to terms with what had happened to her family.
She said, “I’m just strong for my kids. It’s a shock, I go in and I go out. I’m just trying to hold on. I have a very good family. ‘John meant the world to me.
“He was my rock. He was my rock. He was a family guy and my poor son was only 20.