updated 11/23/2008 11:25:45 AM ET 2008-11-23T16:25:45

An experienced firefighter stretching a hose to a home's burning attic was killed early Sunday when a ceiling collapsed, throwing him to the floor and knocking off his helmet and oxygen mask.

Lt. Robert J. Ryan Jr. was unconscious when colleagues found him and he was pronounced dead at a hospital, the fire department said.

It was unclear whether Ryan, 46, was in the attic of the two-story house on Staten Island or was below it when the ceiling fell, firefighters said.

"He was a brave man who lost his life protecting the city," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a hospital news conference.

One resident of the house escaped unhurt, the department said.

Faulty wiring behind blaze?
Ryan's engine company was the first to arrive at the fire, which appeared to have been caused by faulty wiring, firefighters said. The blaze was reported just after midnight and was brought under control an hour later.

Ryan, a 17-year veteran of the fire department, had suffered burns at a fire a few years ago and spent more than a year recuperating before returning to work.

He was married with two children and two stepchildren.

Elsewhere on Staten Island, firefighters sent to another house fire early Sunday found a woman who apparently had been stabbed to death. The 43-year-old woman had numerous stab wounds on her chest and neck, authorities said.

Fire marshals were looking for the cause of the fire. No arrests had been made.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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