- Father and son covered in 12 feet of water seconds after Sandy hit
- Son refused to leave his father’s side even though he was warned to evacuate
- Deaths on Staten Island now stand at 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 fierce floodwaters of Superstorm Sandy swept into their home were buried together Monday in an emotional funeral.
John Filipowicz of Staten Island and his son, also named John, were found hugging in their basement while sheltering from a torrent that covered them in 12 feet of water in seconds.
John Jr, 20, was found drowned in his father’s arms after telling relatives he wouldn’t leave him.
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Heartbreak: Christine Filipowicz, pictured center, is comforted by her children Cali, 16, left, and Joseph, right, as they stand before the coffins of her husband and son.
Salute: A Navy veteran stands at attention as the caskets of John K. Filipowicz and his 20-year-old son, John C. Filipowicz, are carried out of St Charles Church on Staten Island.
Solemn: Mourners embrace while a family member waits in a limousine to drive to the cemetery after the funeral.
A service for the father and son was held Monday at St Charles Church in Staten Island.
Dozens of mourners attended, including John Sr’s wife Christine and his surviving children, John Jr’s twin brother Joseph and 16-year-old Cali.
DNAInfo reported that the two men were huge New York Jets fans and were buried in the jerseys of their favorite players: Joe Klecko for John Sr and Dustin Keller for John Jr.
Family members said the two had an “incredible bond” and would never have been apart, in life or death.
Blessing: A priest sprinkles holy water on the coffins after the funeral
Final resting place: Christine Filipowicz watches as US Marines salute her husband’s casket during funeral services
John Sr., 51, stood guard over the house, but his son refused to leave his side.
Among the mourners were John Sr.’s wife, Christine, and his two surviving children, John Jr.’s twin, Joseph, and 16-year-old Cali.
The deaths are among 19 deaths on Staten Island due to Superstorm Sandy, more than any other borough in New York. The total number of deaths in the United States currently stands at 110.
Tragedy: Mourners embrace after the funeral of men who drowned together in the storm surge caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Brother and uncle Neil Filipowicz standing outside their Staten Island home
Neil Filipowicz said the watermark was at least three meters high.
Among the other victims were Connor and Brandon Moore, ages four and two, who were torn from their mother’s arms by a giant wave off the east shore of Staten Island.
The Filipowicz family lived on Fox Beach Avenue, one of the hardest hit streets on the island.
Neil Filipowicz, 46, John Sr’s brother, told MailOnline that his brother decided to ignore warnings to evacuate after Hurricane Irene last year and a 1992 storm.
He said: ‘I spoke to Joseph and he told me that he tried to get him to leave that day. He was on the phone and was telling John (Jr) to get out of the house. He told her: ‘I’m not going to leave dad.’
‘He was my rock’: Christine Filipowicz hugs a friend outside her house
‘There was no way he was going to leave 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 very 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 could not locate either father or son during Monday night’s storm.
Neil went home the next day at 7.30am, took a look around the house and noticed that his brother’s keys and wallet were on the table, but there was no sign of them.
John Jr photographed with a friend
Neil, Christine and other family members scoured local shelters, 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 shined 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 put my hand in the water, grabbed it, and my nephew appeared.
“My brother also approached, he had his arm around the back of his neck, protecting him.
‘I was pulling them both at the same time, by their shirts, and a neighbor came and helped me take them off and we put them on the side of the house until they were taken away by the National Guard and the Medical Examiner.
‘My nephew was holding my brother and my brother was holding him to his chest as if they knew they were dying.
‘My brother was protecting him. Their eyes were open. My brother seemed intense, like he was still trying to fight to the end and be the father and protect his son. My nephew was very scared.
“The water line on this was 10 feet high, but I think it must have been much higher.”
Neil said the two men were in the basement because they were checking things out.
Family tragedy: John Filipowicz Sr. and his son, John Filipowicz Jr. (right) were found buried under rubble in the basement of their home.
Tributes left outside 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 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 expanding foam on the back door.” No water passed through it.
‘All the foam had to be cut, he was probably checking it and maybe heard a crack in the structure, but once that gave way, the rush of water, that pressure.
‘Some of the concrete blocks are on the other side of the basement. To be pushed like this, they shot like (a) cannon.’
John Jr: Relatives said father and son had a special bond
Fighting back tears, Neil said he had been on duty as a New York City firefighter on 9/11, but “nothing compares to this because of the closeness.”
The neighbors knew the eldest John as the “mayor” of the street because he took care of them all by helping to clear the snow from the street in the winter.
They, in turn, referred to him by the family nickname, “Flip.” Paying tribute to his brother, Neil said: “My brother was all family. Even our friends were considered family, it was like an extended family.
‘I was a United States Marine after finishing high school. He served in Greneda, then worked in the New York City Department of Corrections 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 immensely. For the past few years he drove a school bus.
‘He was a football coach and a basketball coach. He also coached baseball at the school and attended church; he was a regular at St. Charles Catholic Church.
Neil described John Jr as a “prince” who would do “anything for anyone”.
He said: ‘He was the heir of his father. He did everything right. He was never in trouble, he did everything right. He was dedicated to his girlfriend. He went to college and took the Fire Department exam, he was trying to better himself and thinking about becoming a nurse.
Son John (left) refused to leave his father’s side.
John Filipowicz Jr (back, right) pictured here with family two years ago
Twin brothers: Joseph (right) urged John to leave the house, but John jr responded: “I’m not leaving dad.”