Family and friends say heartbreaking goodbye to father and son who died holding each other as Sandy’s water flooded into their home
- Father and son were covered in 10 feet of water within seconds of Sandy’s attack
- Son refused to leave his father’s side despite warning to evacuate
- Staten Island deaths now up to 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 raging waters of Superstorm Sandy stormed into their home were buried together in an emotional funeral on Monday.
John Filipowicz, of Staten Island, and his son – also named John – were found clinging to each other in their basement while protecting themselves from a deluge that covered them in 10 feet of water within seconds.
John Jr, 20, was found drowned in his father’s arms after telling relatives he would not leave his father.
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Heartbreak: Christine Filipowicz, center of picture, is comforted 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 to attention as the coffins of John K. Filipowicz and his 20-year-old son, John C. Filipowicz, are carried from St. Charles Church on Staten Island
Solemn: Mourners embrace as a family member waits in a limousine to be driven to the cemetery after the funeral
A father and son service was held Monday at St Charles Church on Staten Island.
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.
DNA Info 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 the two had an “incredible bond” and would never have been separated – in life or in death.
Blessing: a priest baptizes holy water on the coffins after the funeral service
Final resting place: Christine Filipowicz watches as US Marines salute her husband’s casket during funeral services
John Sr, 51, stayed behind to watch over the house, but his son refused to leave his side.
The mourners included Christine, wife of John Sr., and his two surviving children, Joseph, John Jr.’s twin brother. and 16-year-old Cali.
The deaths were among 19 fatalities on Staten Island from superstorm Sandy, more than any other borough in New York. The total death toll in the US currently stands at 110.
Tragedy: Mourners embrace after the funeral of those men who drowned together in the storm surge caused by Superstorm Sandy
Brother and Uncle Neil Filipowicz stand outside the Staten Island home
Neil Filipowicz said the watermark was at least ten feet high
Among the other victims were Connor and Brandon Moore, ages four and two, who were swept from their mother’s arms by a giant wave on the east coast of Staten Island.
The Filipowicz family lived on Fox Beach Avenue, one of the hardest hit streets on the island.
Neil Filipowicz, 46, brother of John Sr., told MailOnline that his brother decided to ignore warnings to evacuate after Hurricane Irene last year and a storm in 1992.
He said, “I talked to Joseph and he said he tried to get him to leave that day. He was on the phone and told John [Jr] leave the house. He told him, “I’m not leaving Dad.”
‘He was my rock’: Christine Filipowicz hugs a friend outside her house
“It was impossible for him to leave his father at home. It was a bond as it should be with your children, 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 was concerned when they couldn’t reach either father or son during Monday night’s storm.
Neil went to their house at 7:30am the next day, looked around the house and saw his brother’s keys and wallet on the table, but there was no sign of it.
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 prayed it was a doll’s hand, but I put my hand in the water and grabbed it and my nephew came up.
“My brother also came up, he had his arm around the back of his head to protect him.
“I pulled both of their shirts at the same time and a neighbor came and helped me take them off and we put them on the side of the house until they were moved by the National Guard and the medical examiner.
“My cousin held my brother and my brother pressed him against his chest as if they knew they were dying.
My brother protected him. Their eyes were open. My brother looked intense, like he was still trying to fight to the end and be the father and protect his son. My cousin was so scared.
“The waterline on this was 10 feet high, but I think it must have been much higher.”
Neil said the two men were in the basement 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
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 son drowned when the storm hit
He added, “I know my brother had some sandbags outside, he had used some expandable foam on the back door. No water came through.
“All the foam had to come out, he was probably checking it and maybe he heard a creak in the structure, but once that gave way, the rushing of the water, that pressure.
“Some of the cinder blocks are on the other side of the basement. To be pushed like that, they shot like [a] cannon.’
John Jr: Relatives said that father and son had a special bond
Neil fought back tears and said he served as a firefighter in New York City on 9/11, but that “nothing compares to this because of proximity.”
Neighbors knew Jan the eldest as the ‘mayor’ of the street because he took care of them by helping to clear the street of snow in the winter.
They, in turn, nicknamed him the family nickname “Flip.” In 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 a high school United States Marine. He served in Greneda, then he worked in the New York City Corrections Department and from there he retired and worked for the Concrete Laborers Union for a while.
“He was a great family man, loved his wife and children very much. In recent years he drove a bus for school children.
“He was a football coach, basketball coach. He was also a high school baseball coach and went to church. He was a regular at St. Charles Catholic Church.”
Neil described John Jr. as a ‘prince’ who ‘did everything for everyone’.
He said, ‘He was the heir to whom his 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 test, he tried to improve himself and thought about becoming a nurse.’
Son John (left) refused to leave his father’s side
John Filipowicz Jr. (behind, right) pictured here two years ago with relatives
Twin brothers: Joseph (right) urged John to leave the house, but John jr replied: ‘I’m not leaving Daddy’
VIDEO: Father and son buried side by side