Family and friends say heartbreaking farewell to father and son who died while clutching each other as Sandy floodwaters rushed into their home
- Father and son were covered in 12ft of water within seconds of Sandy’s strike
- Son refused to leave his dad’s side despite being warned to evacuate
- Deaths in Staten Island now up to 19 after the superstorm
- Brother of the father was a fireman during 9/11 but said ‘nothing compares’ to this family loss
A tragic father and son who died side-by-side as the fierce floodwaters of Superstorm Sandy rushed into their home were buried together on Monday in an emotional funeral.
John Filipowicz, of Staten Island, and his son – also named John – were found clinging to each other in their basement as they shielded themselves from a torrent which covered them in 12ft of water in seconds.
John Jr, 20, was found drowned in his father’s arms after telling relatives that he would not leave his father.
Heartbreak: Christine Filipowicz, pictured center, is consoled by her children Cali, 16, left, and Joseph, right, as they stand before the coffins of her husband and son
Salute: A Marine 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 in Staten Island
Solemn: Mourners embrace as a family member waits in a limousine to drive to the cemetery following the funeral
A service was held for the father and son on Monday at Staten Island’s St Charles Church.
It was attended by dozens of mourners, including John Sr’s wife Christine and their surviving children Joseph – John Jr’s twin brother – and 16-year-old Cali.
DNAInfo reported that the two men were big fans of the New York Jets, and were buried in the jerseys of their favorite players – Joe Klecko for John Sr and Dustin Keller for John Jr.
Relatives said that the two had an ‘incredible bond’ and would never have been separated – in life or in death.
Blessing: A priest douses holy water on the caskets following the funeral service
Final resting place: Christine Filipowicz watches as U.S. Marines salute the coffin of her husband during burial services
John Sr, 51, stayed behind to watch 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, Joseph, John Jr’s twin and 16-year-old Cali.
The deaths were among the 19 fatalities on Staten Island due to Superstorm Sandy, more than any other borough in New York. The total U.S. death toll currently stands at 110.
Tragedy: Mourners embrace following the funeral of them men, who drowned together in the storm surge caused by Superstorm Sandy
Brother and uncle Neil Filipowicz standing outside the home in Staten Island
Neil Filipowicz said the watermark was at least ten feet high
Among the other victims were Connor and Brandon Moore, aged four and two, who were swept out of their mother’s arms by a giant wave on the east coast of Staten Island.
The Filipowicz family lived on Fox Beach Avenue, which was among 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 said that that day he tried to get him to leave. He was on the phone and was telling John [Jr] to leave the house. He told him: ‘I’m not leaving Daddy.’
‘He was my rock’: Christine Filipowicz hugs a friend outside her home
‘There was no way he was going to leave his dad at home. It was a bond how it’s supposed to be with your kids, 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 were unable to reach either father or son during Monday night’s storm.
Neil went to their house the next day at 7.30am, had a look round the house and noticed his brother’s keys and wallet were on the table but there was no sign of them.
John jr pictured with a friend
Neil, Christine and other relatives then went round local hostels and when they found nothing, Neil went back to the house on his own.
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 in the water and grabbed it and my nephew came up.
‘My brother came up too, he had his arm round the back of his head, shielding him.
‘I was pulling both of them at the same time, by their shirts and a neighbour came and helped me remove them and we put them on 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 clutching him into his chest as if 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 and be the father and protect his son. My nephew was so scared.
‘The water line on this was 10ft up but I’m thinking it must have been much higher.’
Neil said that the two men were in the basement because they were checking on things.’
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 outside the home in Staten Island, New York of John K Filipowicz and son John C Filipowicz who drowned in the basement during a flood caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The basement of the house where father and sonwere drowned when the storm hit
He added said: ‘I know my brother had some sandbags outside, he had used some expandable foam on the back door. No water got through it.
‘All the foam had to be cut out, he probably was checking on it and maybe he heard a crack in the structure, but once that gave way, the rush of the water, that pressure.
‘Some of the cinderblocks are over the other side of the basement. To be pushed like that, they shot like [a] cannon.’
John jr: Relatives said father and son had a special bond
Fighting back the tears, Neil said that he had been on duty as a New York City fireman on 9/11 but that ‘nothing compares to this because of the closeness.’
Neighbours knew John the elder as the ‘mayor’ of the street because he looked after them all by helping clean the snow out of the street in winter.
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 United States Marine out of High School. He served in Greneda then he worked in the New York City Corrections Department and from there he retired and worked for the Concrete Labourers Union for a while.
‘He was a big family man, loved his wife and kids immensely. For the last few years he drove a bus for school kids.
‘He was football coach, a basketball coach. He was school baseball coach as well and was a church going man, he was a regular at St Charles Catholic church.’
Neil described John Jr as a ‘prince’ who did ‘anything for anyone.’
He said: ‘He was the heir to who is 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 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 relatives two years ago
Twin brothers: Joseph (right) urged John to leave the house but John jr responded ‘I’m not leaving daddy’