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The family of a 29-year-old St. John’s University graduate received an outpouring of support after the Flushing resident was killed by a falling tree during Superstorm Sandy Monday night.
Tony Laino, who friends said worked as a driver at Ace Party & Tent Rental, was killed at about 7 p.m. Monday when a tree blown over by high winds fell onto his 166th Street home. Laino was in his second-floor room and was crushed by the trunk, according to police and neighbors.
Days afterward, a friend started an online fund-raiser to help the family with the damage and funeral, and by Thursday afternoon had raised nearly $8,500 for the Lainos.
“I wish I could give more,” wrote one contributor, who donated $150.
On Tuesday afternoon, friends and family gathered for an emotional reunion in front of the crushed residence between Lithonia Avenue and Pidgeon Meadow Road.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful young man. There’s no explanation for something like this,” said Heather Valente, whose daughter Danielle was Laino’s longtime girlfriend.
The tree flattened nearly one-third of the top floor of the two-story home, and the gigantic trunk fell directly onto Laino’s room.
According to neighbors, off-duty first responders rushed into the house to try and save him, but Laino was later pronounced dead at the scene by emergency workers, according to the NYPD.
The family had been asking the city to take down the tree for years, according to neighbor Joann Evangelista.
Just two or three months ago city workers came to prune the branches off the large tree, and Laino’s father had begged for them to cut it down, but arborists had told him the tree was healthy and could not be dug up, Evangelista said.
“It was tragic,” she said. “You just can’t get it around your head.”
Evangelista said neighbors repeatedly dialed 911 after the tree came crashing down, but could not raise someone on the other line.
“The phone just rang, rang, rang,” she said.
Friends slowly arrived at the house and stared at the damage in disbelief before embracing the family.
The family was set to hold a wake Thursday and Friday, with a service Saturday.
Donations to the family can be made in Laino’s name at Frederick’s Funeral home or by going to gofundme.com/tonylaino.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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