Woman who dangled from 20th floor in Manhattan fire recalls terrifying ordeal: ‘I would have died without them,’ she says of firefighters

The woman who was rescued by firefighters as she dangled from a 20-story window during a Manhattan building fire would not have escaped the flames without the heroics of the FDNY, she gratefully told the Daily News on Sunday.

“I would have died without them,” Christina Foti said from a hospital bed. “I thought I was going to die.”

The fire broke out around 10:30 a.m. Saturday when a lithium-ion battery attached to an e-bike exploded by the front door of a 20th-floor apartment in the building on E. 52nd St. between First Ave. and Sutton Place, FDNY officials said.

“I was sleeping,” Foti recounted. “It’s not my bike. It’s a neighbor’s bike that he won and I don’t know anything about it.”

A couple on the 21st floor noticed smoke pouring out of their closet, but as they investigated, it was clear it was coming from downstairs.

Firefighters told the couple to stay put, move as far away from the smoke as possible and to lay wet towels at the base of their door.

“We were in the bedroom watching the smoke and watching the crowd from down there,” said Lucas Leblanc, 22. “It seemed a lot longer when you’re in the thick of it.”

Meanwhile, the apartment Foti was in became so engulfed in smoke that she had no choice but to hang from the window for what fire officials said was five minutes.

Firefighter Belvon Koranteng from Ladder 16 was lowered down to the apartment with a rope — a rescue technique described Saturday as “a last resort in the FDNY” by FDNY Chief Frank Leeb — where he discovered Foti was stuck on a window guard.

Firefighter Artur Podgorski, also from Ladder 16, was then lowered down. He grabbed Foti and freed her from the guard.

The firefighters and the woman were lowered down to an open window, where more members of the department were waiting.

“They saved my life,” Foti said of the firefighters. “I’m very, very grateful.”

She was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she is still recovering.

“I don’t remember much,” Foti said, her eye swollen shut and bandages covering both hands. “I just remember that it was horrible and I feel awful. I’m lucky I have my family [come] in from outside the city.”

The blaze injured 38 people, including five firefighters, FDNY officials said.

Inside the burned out apartment where the fire was sparked were at least five e-bikes, according to Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn. The tenant ran a business repairing e-bikes and scooters.

Fires caused by lithium ion batteries, like those most commonly seen in e-bikes and smartphones, have killed six people so far this year, Flynn said.