Water Mill fire victim: ‘So happy I was able to get out’

Rolando Perez in his hospital bed at the burn unit at Stony Brook University Hospital. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)
Rolando Perez in his hospital bed at the burn unit at Stony Brook University Medical Center. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Sitting in the burn unit at Stony Brook University Medical Center about 24 hours after escaping from a house explosion in Water Mill, 40-year-old Riverhead resident Rolando Perez couldn’t remember much.

He remembered who helped him to safety. He remembered who was in the basement of the Montauk Highway home with him when the explosion occurred. And he hoped his friend and neighbor, 18-year-old Abner Canel, was OK.

“I wonder how he is doing now. He was hurt more than me,” he said through an interpreter.

The Guatemala native said he was working downstairs when Mr. Canel cut a gas line.

Dr. Edward Kush, a neighbor who heard the explosion, said this morning, “I heard a loud bang and smelled smoke. I ran over there and the place immediately burst into flames.”

Southampton Town Police, Southampton Volunteer Ambulance, Southampton Village Ambulance and North Sea Fire Department all responded to the scene of the fire yesterday.

“If they didn’t come, I wouldn’t be here,” Mr. Perez said on Thursday.

Mr. Canel remains in serious condition, defined by the American Hospital Association as “Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.”

Hospital officials said that Mr. Perez is in fair condition. With two friends in the hospital room with him on Thursday afternoon, he was in good spirits. He suffered injuries to the right side of his face, as well as his back, in the incident. But he said he’s feeling better.

“I’m a little calmer now,” he said. “My back is getting better. I was so happy I was able to get out.”

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