Westchester Square explosion

Westchester Square explosion
Firefighters at scene of auto repair shop explosion and collapse near Westchester Square.
by Walter Pofeldt

A father and son critically injured in a explosion that collapsed the roof of their Westchester Square auto repair shop were reported out of danger.

Firefighters had to crawl under the collapsed roof to rescue one of them, officials said.

Benedetto Mondello, 63, and his son Benny Mondello, 35, were opening their B&L Auto Repair shop at 2601 Westchester Ave. about 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27 when the blast tore through a secondary building on the property, causing it to collapse, said fire officials.

Fire Marshals determined it was a natural gas explosion, but the exact cause was still under investigation, officials said.

As of print press time, Benedetto Mondello was in “good condition” and his son Benny was in stable condition, said Jacobi Medical Center spokesman John Doyle.

An FDNY spokesman said that there were no flames when firefighters arrived, but as is standard procedure at building collapses, additional units were quickly called in, raising the incident to two alarms.

Fire Chief Patrick Ruddick said at the scene that the two victims said that an air compressor used to inflate tires had exploded, and that firefighter from Squad 61 performed rescue operations.

Aman Bachan, 30, said he was working at a BP gas station across the street from the fire when he heard a loud bang.

“We ran outside and saw that the building had collapsed, and called 911,” he said. “It was shocking…and frightening too.”

Dom Rocchio, the owner of Dom’s Auto Body, around the corner from B&L on Blondell Avenue, said that he knew both father and son quite well, and has been friends with Benedetto Mondello since he immigrated from Italy in the late 1960s.

“I hope they are alright,” he said, adding about the two men and their family, “they are very nice people.”

The incident closed traffic backups as the entrance and exit of the nearby Hutchinson River Parkway at Westchester Avenue were closed. Local buses also had to be rerouted, causing commuter delays.

“My son called me an this morning and told me that his bus had been delayed because of the collapse,” said Chary Sloan, 62, of Morris Park, who was standing near the scene. “I hope no one was hurt…I walk past the building sometimes, but…a lot of the buildings here are old and they might not be very well maintained.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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