Sandy was gone so Albert McSwain and his daughter wanted to get some air and view what’s outside. But after and daughter encountered a pitch-black stairwell slick with water, so McSwain’s daughter, Allison McSwain-Lockett, went back to get better navigate their way outside from the fourth floor in the Hammels Houses. When Allison came back, her father had slipped.
McSwain-Lockett immediately alerted emergency responders and they carried out McSwain from between the third and fourth floors on a stretcher. His daughter said the spinal cord of her 77-year-old father had been severed in the fall and his head had hit the concrete.
McSwain was a U.S. Army veteran who had worked for 23 years as a custodian at the city Police Academy. After several days of treatment in the Jamaica Hospital, McSwain died. He was the 11th person in Queens whose death is attributed to the storm and his death brought the city’s total to 43, police said.
His family is now complaining that the New York City Housing Authority, which oversees the Hammels Houses in central Rockaway, had not properly secured the stairwells. The NYCHA declined to comment regarding the complaint.
McSwain-Lockett stated that the Housing Authority must have expected that under water condition, they are supposed to put out cones. They could have barricaded these doors and not allowed their tenants to leave the complex.
Relatives recalled that the deceased, McSwain was healthy, sturdy and having a big appetite for life. His daughter bought him a cake for his birthday last month, and McSwain left the bakery box string on top of the TV to show that he had finished the whole treat himself.
McSwain-Lockett said she had moved back to stay with her father after she was displaced from her home in Jamaica following Tropical Storm Irene and she admired his generosity. She recalled that her father never turned his back to help total strangers coming to his door.
The vet was a father of five, grandfather of 13 and great-grandfather of 10. McSwain was originally from Alabama but he moved to New York after serving in the Korean War. He was able to beat throat cancer way back in 1989, his daughter said.
A service was scheduled for Thursday between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at Deliverance Baptist Church, at 227-11 Linden Blvd. in Cambria Heights, with a funeral to follow at the same location between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.