Couple in East Setauket fire teamed up to first save their baby, family says
Feb 20, 2022
Steven Ortner, Lisa Ostrowski and their baby, Leo. Credit: Family photo
Updated February 19, 2022 7:06 PM
Family friend Barbara Prass, 58, said the baby cries with a voice hoarse from the smoke, and one of his lungs has collapsed. "He’s sedated. He does wake up crying and looks around and falls asleep," Prass said. Family members are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire and of Ostrowski’s death. Ortner’s father, Clayton Ortner, his voice breaking, said the couple were heroic in their efforts to save their baby. "It was the teamwork of Steven and Lisa together that got that baby out," he said. His wife, her voice also cracking, added, "Lisa lost her life in that house saving that baby, handing him to Steven." The couple met about three years ago. "Forget about it, it was head over heels from the beginning," Prass said, saying the couple quickly started talking about being together forever. "It seemed too fast. We’d say, ‘Don’t you want to get to know each other first?’"
Leo arrived 10 months ago and the couple was engaged. Ortner has been working for several years as a salesman at an answering service company in Nesconset, signing up new clients, Chmela said. "We all saw a change in him when he met Lisa. He was happier, more outgoing," said Chmela, who also works at the company. "She was a very, very nice woman. She was Steven’s missing piece, and he was her missing piece." Chris Ferguson also works at the company. He said Ortner, as a younger man, had spent a couple of years traveling and playing bass in a band, "trying to find himself." "He met Lisa and he became a bit more motivated. He wanted to build a family, a life, a career on Long Island," said Ferguson, 31, of Terryville. Early Saturday morning, doctors placed Ortner on a ventilator, his family said. His parents and twin sister, Allison Ortner, are spending long hours at the hospital, and his older brother, Clayton Ortner, is coming in from Florida. "They almost didn’t let his parents see him," Prass said, because of his condition. "But that wasn’t going to happen." Prass has started a GoFundMe page to help the family.