Mourners pay their respects to fallen FDNY lieutenant

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NEW YORK (PIX11/AP) - Hundreds came to the viewing of FDNY Lt. Gordon "Matt" Ambelas on Nelson Avenue on Tuesday night and on Tuesday afternoon on Staten Island to remember a brave man who have the ultimate sacrifice.

They filed into Casey McCallum Rice South Shore Funeral Home to pay their respects to a hero.

Many people showed up and hugged, and consoled one another. Ambelas was described by mourners as a wonderful family man who loved being a firefighter.

"Beautiful family," said Libby Moses.

Libby Moses taught one of the daughters of Lieutenant Ambelas. Quietly, Moses walked up to the Staten Island Funeral home to pay her respects to him and to his family. She remembered him fondly.

"It was a pleasure to talk to him," said Moses.

A 14-year veteran of the FDNY, Ambelas had been promoted to lieutenant 10 months ago. Throughout his career he helped the city through its darkest hours, including the recovery from 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy.

He was part of the team that freed a boy stuck in a roll-up gate earlier this year.

Through tears and quavering voices, Ambelas' colleagues praised the fallen firefighter for his bravery and dedication to saving lives.

"He died a hero. That's how he lived. We will never forget him," said Eric Bischoff, a fellow firefighter and friend.

Ambelas' death was the department's first in the line of duty in more than two years.

On Saturday night, Ambelas and about 100 other firefighters were responding to a Hi-Rise fire on Wilson Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

According to the FDNY, Ambelas was on the 19th floor searching for victims when he became trapped in a crowded room.

The medical examiner's office has determined that Lt. Gordon Matthew Ambelas died from smoke inhalation and burns.

A pinched electrical cord has been blamed for the fire.

He is survived by two daughters, ages 5 and 8. A fund for the girls' education has been created. Donations in checks made payable to "Ambelas Children's Education Fund" can be mailed to:

  • The FDNY Foundation
    9 MetroTech Center
    Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201