Friends of a Manhattan man who lost his husband and was critically injured in a three-alarm fire on Sunday are working to create positive change in the wake of tragedy.
The blaze broke out inside an apartment on the 20th floor of The Strand, located at 500 W. 43rd Street, just after 11 a.m. on Sunday, authorities said.
Michael Todd Cohen and his recently wedded husband Daniel McClung, who lived on the 38th floor, were trying to escape through a stairwell when they became trapped in smoke. Firefighters found the couple on the 31st floor.
McClung, 27, died and Cohen, 32, was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital where he still remains.
An overloaded power strip sparked the fire and quickly engulfed the apartment, fire officials said. The tenant of the apartment was not home when the fire started.
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Javier Morgado, a close friend of the couple, said tragedies like these could be prevented.
He began an online petition calling on the city to add a public address system in stairwells so that the fire department and building management can communicate with residents in emergency situations.
“The purpose of the petition is to have some good, something positive come out of this tragedy,” Morgado said.
Nearly 1,300 people had signed the petition by Wednesday evening.
In addition to the petition, friends and colleagues have been pouring in donations to an online fund.
The fund was created for Cohen, who works as a web TV producer, on behalf of the International Web Academy of Web Television. Though it had an original goal to raise $10,000, more than $50,000 was donated as of Wednesday evening.
Family and close friends of Cohen and McClung released this statement:
"Words cannot express the magnitude of our grief over this tragedy. As we mourn the loss of Daniel, we simultaneously are surrounding Michael with love, light and support.
"Thank you for the amazing outpouring of love, support and concern. As Michael begins the long road to physical and emotional recovery, we ask for privacy and respect during this impossibly difficult time."
McClung was a playwright who worked as a production assistant at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in the West Village. He and Cohen were in a relationship for more than four years and were married on July 13 last year.
Morgado described the couple as “inseparable.”
“They were the kind of people, when you hung out with one of them, you hung out with both of them,” he said.
He added that both were caring people who always gave back to their communities.
“That’s why so many of us are trying to help and give back to them,” Morgado said.