THEY stepped in the wrong puddle. They walked the dog at the wrong moment. Or they did exactly what all the emergency experts instructed them to do - they huddled inside and waited for the fury to go away.
The storm found them all.
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RAW VISION: A Maryland man died after a tree fell on his house during Hurricane Sandy. Friends and neighbours say he had been sick for the past few weeks.
Hurricane Sandy unleashed its full assortment of lethal methods as it hit the east coast of the US. The authorities said it had claimed at least 40 lives in eight states. In Franklin, Pennsylvania, an eight-year-old boy was crushed by a tree when he ran outside to check on his family's calves. A woman died in the same state when her car slid off a snowy road.
There were 18 deaths reported in New York City, and five more elsewhere in the state. It was, most of all, the trees. Uprooted or cracked by the furious winds, they flattened cars, houses and pedestrians.
A woman was killed by a severed power line. A man was swept by floodwater out of his house and through the glass of a store. The power blinked off for a 75-year-old woman on a respirator and a heart attack killed her. Three people, aged 50, 57 and 72, were found drowned in separate basements in Queens borough.
And the storm left its share of mysteries. A parking lot attendant was found dead in an underground garage in Manhattan, the cause of death unclear. The body of an unidentified woman washed up on Georgia Beach on Long Island.
Some people died and no one knew, not for hours, not until the storm had backed away and moved on.
Jessie Streich-Kest was 24 and Jacob Vogelman was 23. They were friends living in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. About 8pm on Monday they ventured out with Ms Streich-Kest's dog, Max, a white pit bull mix.
According to his LinkedIn page, Mr Vogelman was a student at Brooklyn College. Ms Streich-Kest was a teaching fellow who had just started work at the Bushwick School for Social Justice, a high school.
Her father, Jon Kest, is executive director of New York Communities for Change and a long-time activist who has led the battle to unionise car washes and supermarkets across the city, as well as being a leader in the battle for paid sick days. His daughter was herself something of an activist. She had helped organise Stop Horse Abuse for the carriage horses in Central Park.
In the wind and rain, the pair strode along Ditmas Avenue, beneath a canopy of vast maples, oaks and lindens. In rapid succession, perhaps within 30 minutes, the winds knocked down three trees. There was a booming sound as each one fell. Their roots tore up massive chunks of footpath.
One of the trees crushed Ms Streich-Kest and Mr Vogelman. Their bodies were not found until Tuesday morning.
‘‘We had no idea,’’ said Pat Atia, whose house faces Ditmas Avenue. The dog was bruised and is being cared for at an animal shelter.
In Richmond Hill, Queens, a power line the length of a block on 105th Avenue snapped and crumpled to the ground. The frayed end began sparking wildly.
About 8pm on Monday, according to witnesses and a friend, a 23-year-old woman who lived at the end of the block came out to her driveway clutching a camera. Her name was Lauren Abraham. She was a make-up artist who maintained a studio in the basement of the house.
‘‘She was a beautiful girl, very carefree, she was never depressed,’’ Elpidio Nunez, a close friend for 10 years, said on the steps of her house. ‘‘I had never seen her cry.’’
The line was still sparking as Ms Abraham walked down the driveway and onto the rain-drenched street. She came into contact with one end of the snapped wire and caught fire.
A half-dozen or so witnesses watched in horror. Mr Nunez awoke in the middle of the night. He had a sick feeling that something was very wrong. He sent text messages to Ms Abraham to see if she was all right. Nothing came back.
Jack Baumler, 11, was a sixth-grader known as a star shortstop in Little League baseball in North Salem, New York. Michael Robson, 13, was his best friend and neighbour.
Valerie Baumler, Jack’s mother, has a wood-frame cottage at Peach Lake, and the boys were spending the night together, along with two other boys.
They were watching television, the winds pounding outside, when the hurricane uprooted an enormous tree. It ripped through the roof of the cottage, killing Jack and Michael.
‘‘I lost my son,’’ Ms Baumler wailed to Danny Seymour, Jack’s uncle, as she clasped him. ‘‘I lost my son.’’
The two other boys escaped with minor injuries.
‘‘We lost two beautiful young boys last night,’’ said Mr Seymour, choking back tears outside the Baumlers’ home.
‘‘Our hearts are broken, the pain is raw. We believe faith will carry us through. North Salem has a huge heart and they will wrap their arms around these two families.’’
Michael Abruzzo, 43, had lived for several years across the street from George Dresch and his family at the end of Yetman Avenue on Staten Island. The families attended the same church.
‘‘Good people’’ is how Mr Abruzzo summed them up. ‘‘They watched our dog every time we went on vacation.’’
Mr Abruzzo, an electrician who has lived in the neighbourhood for a decade, saw Mr Dresch on Monday. Heeding warnings, Mr Abruzzo had evacuated with his wife and two daughters on Sunday. He had returned to his house briefly to do some final chores.
Mr Dresch told him that he, his wife, Pat, and their daughter, Angela, were going to sit out the storm. ‘‘‘I said, ‘Dude, why don’t you go?’’’ Mr Abruzzo told him. ‘‘‘What’s the point?’’’
In advance of tropical storm Irene last year, both families had left and their houses were burgled. He thought that might be why Mr Dresch wouldn’t leave.
Huge waves crashed over Yetman Avenue. On Tuesday, all that remained of the Abruzzos’ home was its foundation. There was a gaping hole where the home of the Dresches had been.
The body of Angela Dresch, 13, was found about 100 metres from her house. Her mother was found alive, a block to the north, and has been hospitalised.
George Dresch is missing. On Tuesday afternoon rescue workers saw a male body trapped in debris sandwiched between two nearby houses. They were trying to remove the body so they could identify it.
‘‘I was just with him,’’ Mr Abruzzo said in disbelief. ‘‘I told him to get out.’’
NEW YORK TIMES