September 3, 2006 -- An already sad day for the Fire Department turned tragic when a 12-year-old boy crossing a Queens street was killed by a firetruck racing to a call yesterday.

Michael Kandathil was heading from his uncle's house to that of his parents when he apparently slipped on the slick pavement of Hampton Street and was fatally struck, witnesses said.

Shaken firefighters leaped out of their rig and tried to revive the unconscious boy - as his hysterical mom was held back.

"She became pale when she saw her son," said a 35-year-old neighbor. "They didn't even let the mother get to him. She was screaming something in [Hindi]."

The FDNY truck's driver was also devastated, witnesses said.

"He was very sad and crying. The other firefighters had to hug him," said neighbor Gencis Florimon, 50. "He was in very bad shape."

The accident occurred on the same day that firefighters buried one of their own, Lt. Howie Carpluk, killed last Sunday in a Bronx fire that also claimed the life of rookie Michael Reilly.

"Obviously, it was a rough day for all of us already," one fireman said.

Michael was crossing Hampton Street near Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst at about 3 p.m., when he paused near a double-parked car in the middle of the street to look west, officials and witnesses said.

At the same time, Engine 289, with its lights and sirens on, was coming from the east. The driver couldn't see him.

Witnesses said that it looked as if Michael hesitated and that he may have slipped.

"He just went to get the mail, across the street," said his grief-stricken uncle, Joseph Kurian. "It happened in a split second. He had no chance; the impact was too much. He was dead on the spot."

"The kid was crossing the street, and he got scared," Florimon said. "He was trying to back up when the firetruck hit him on the side of the head."

Relatives described Michael as a bright boy who was about to enter the eighth grade at nearby St. Bartholomew's Catholic School.

His schoolmates gathered at the accident scene in front of his home to remember the altar boy, math whiz and basketball player.

"When I found out, I just couldn't believe it," said Chirag Jethanandani, 13. "He was the type that if you needed help, he'd go out of his way to help you."

Officials said that the boy's death was the result of a terrible accident but that they were still investigating.

One cop blamed the double-parked driver.

"You know who's at fault is the person who double-parked the car. That's why we give tickets to double-parked cars - to prevent things like this from happening," the officer said angrily.

FDNY spokesman Farrell Sklerov said, "The matter is under investigation. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the family."

Additional reporting by Hasani Gittens

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