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A Decorated Soldier Died While Trying to Rescue His Neighbors from the Bronx Apartment Fire

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A decorated soldier died while rescuing his neighbors from the deadly apartment building fire in the Bronx earlier this week.

The father of Private Emmanuel Mensah, 28, told CNN that his son went in and out of the building twice while trying to bring neighbors to safety, but “on the third time he couldn’t find his way out.” Mensah’s uncle told the New York Times that his nephew brought four people out to safety, but died while trying to save a fifth.

Mensah immigrated to the Bronx from Ghana five years ago, the New York Times reports. The decorated soldier, who was planning to become a military policeman, was reportedly stationed in Virginia, but had returned to his apartment in the Bronx after graduating from bootcamp in December.

Though he lived in apartment 11, the Times reports that Mensah’s body was found in apartment 15. He apparently died of smoke inhalation.

On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked the soldier for his sacrifice on Twitter. “Private Emmanuel Mensah was a first-generation immigrant, a soldier and a New Yorker,” de Blasio wrote. “He gave his life rescuing his neighbors in the Bronx fire. His heroism exemplifies the best of our city. Rest in peace.”

Eleven other people, including several young children, perished in the fire on Thursday. The fire, which was started by a 3-year-old child playing with a stove, was the city’s deadliest in almost 30 years.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com