New Castle News

July 23, 2012

Dramatic Video, Photo Gallery: Blaze guts Black Whale, firefighter rescued

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Two New Castle police officers and a group of firemen were heroes last night during a blazing fire downtown.

They pulled one of their own from the burning building as flames leapt out the upstairs windows.

The fireman, Lt. John Onufrak Sr., had gone into the first floor with a hose to fight the fire from the inside when a wall and ceiling collapsed on him, according to witnesses at the scene.

But two officers raced into the fiery building without gear to help other suited-up firemen drag him to safety.

A cheer rose from the crowd as Onufrak was pulled out of a side door.

Onufrak, conscious and talking to paramedics, was taken on a stretcher to an ambulance and transported to Jameson Hospital.

The fire broke out in the rear of 105 E. Washington St. shortly before 8 p.m. last night, drawing a crowd of spectators whose vehicles filled many of the downtown parking lots.

The building formerly housed the Black Whale, a bar that had been closed since the 1970s.

The fire engulfed the second floor and flames were leaping out of the east side of the building, threatening to collapse and spread to the neighboring Butz Flowers building.

Video 1 — Footage shot by Joe DiThomas of New Castle shows the huge

fire that gutted the former Black Whale building in the downtown.

Video 2 — In this video shot by Joe DiThomas of New Castle, firefighters

and onlookers realize firefighter Lt. John Onufrak is trapped inside

the structure, which looks like it’s about to collapse.

Video 3 — In this video shot by Joe DiThomas of New Castle, onlookers

cheer on firefighters as they realize Lt. John Onufrak has been rescued

from the burning building.