FDNY fire fighter dies after falling off bridge, US
A Fire Department of New York (FDNY) fire fighter died late on Sunday, 6 January 2019, after he fell more than 50 feet off a bridge in Brooklyn while trying to help injured people at the scene of a car wreck, officials say. Probationary fire fighter Steven Pollard, aged 30, who comes from a family of FDNY fire fighters, rushed to the scene of the crash around 22h00 on the westbound side of the Belt Parkway, just east of Flatbush, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A Nigro said early on Monday at a press conference. Pollard tried jumping from one side to the other when he slipped through a gap on the Mill Basin overpass and plunged 52 feet to the concrete below.
Pollard, who was assigned to Ladder Company 170 in Brooklyn, was pronounced dead at an area hospital a short time later. He had been on the job for a year and a half and is the 1 151 member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty.
When Ladder Co 170 arrived at the scene of a car crash on the Belt Parkway Sunday night, the fire fighters immediately ran toward the crumpled remains of an SUV on the opposite side. As the FDNY’s bravest crossed over a pair of Jersey barriers separated by a three-foot gap, the unthinkable happened. “I just heard, ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God! [A] fire fighter fell, he fell through, he fell through,’ ” car-crash victim Travis Simms told media at his Flatlands home Monday.
Fire fighter Steven Pollard, 30, fell through the space dividing the eastbound and westbound lanes on the parkway’s overpass bridge and plummeted 52 feet to the ground. He died a short time later at Kings County Hospital. Tragically, Pollard may not even have known there was a gap, a fire source said. “Usually, if it looks like a bad accident, you step over the Jersey barrier,” the source lamented. “I guess on the bridge it wasn’t connected. We take all the precautions we can and this guy gets killed stepping over a Jersey barrier.”
The FDNY would not comment on what specifically went wrong and is “still in the midst of a safety investigation,” according to department officials. By the time Pollard fell, four or five of his colleagues had reached Simms. All but two of them peeled off to go aid their fallen comrade. “You know, this is not your fault, this is not your fault,” a remaining fire fighter said, according to Simms.
But that didn’t ease the pain, “I just immediately felt guilty,” Simms said. His guilt deepened when he learned while being treated that Pollard had died trying to save him. “I couldn’t control my emotions,” said Simms, a father of three-year-old twins. “Pollard, he’s my hero. I send my prayers, my condolences to his family. I could only imagine what they’re going through.”
In a twist, Pollard and Simms worked together for JetBlue on the tarmac at JFK Airport. “When I seen the photo, I said, ‘This guy looks familiar,’ and it just made the situation worse,” Simms said. Simms needed seven stitches in his finger and was diagnosed with a bruised rib. A man in another car was also treated for minor injuries.
While Simms and Pollard were being worked on at separate hospitals, Mayor de Blasio was paying his respects to the tragic Bravest. He arrived at Kings County Hospital at 00h05 on Monday and stayed until 1h45, according to a spokesman. “To see this good young man there, to see him there with his family around him, it was extraordinarily painful and I felt so much for this family,” de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference on Monday. He ordered flags in the city to fly at half-staff Monday in Pollard’s honour.
Dozens of firefighters stood at attention Monday afternoon as Pollard’s flag-draped casket was carried from the Medical Examiner’s Office into an FDNY ambulance for transport to the Marine Park Funeral Home. His father and brother, retired and active fire fighters, respectively, accompanied the body in the ambulance.
Although funeral information has not been announced, Simms hopes to pay his respects when the service is held. “I have to tell to him, ‘Thank you,’ say my final goodbye,” Simms said. “Because at the end of the day, he made the ultimate sacrifice to make sure that I was all right.”
Meanwhile, fire fighters in a bucket truck hanged black bunting on Pollard’s Ladder 170/Engine 257 station house in Canarsie, while mourners filled the sidewalks below with candles and flowers. As Pollard’s family, friends and colleagues struggle to cope, officials are trying to determine what exactly went wrong. “DOT is working closely with the FDNY to investigate the circumstances of this tragic incident,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson said. “We extend our deepest condolences to Firefighter Pollard’s family and colleagues.” The bridge from which he fell is still under construction. DOT wouldn’t say whether the gap will remain when the work is done. The agency broke ground on the $263 million span as a replacement for the adjacent Mill Basin drawbridge in 2015 and diverted traffic onto the new span in 2017, according to officials. The city plans to finish the new bridge and demolish the old one by the end of the year.
Commissioner Nigro said, "It's an incredibly sad night for the Pollard family, for the Fire Department family and for our city. Firefighter Pollard had one and a half years on the job, just starting out. He lost his life tonight in the process of helping others. He was assigned to Ladder Company 170 in Brooklyn. At approximately 22h00 they were called to the Belt Parkway just east of Flatbush, to a two-car accident with injuries. As they were going to help the victims at that accident, fire fighter Pollard slipped through a gap in the roadway and fell to the ground approximately 52 feet below. He was pronounced this evening. It's a terrible loss for the department, to lose a member just at the beginning of his career like this is devastating to us. He is the 1 151st member of the Bravest to give his life in the service of the people of this city. As his family mourns him, the department mourns him, and certainly the citizens of our city mourn him. All we can do as a department is stand beside the family and give them whatever support we can, stand beside the members of his unit at this difficult time for them, and ask for the prayers of everyone in this city for the Pollard family, for his father, retired fire fighter Ray Pollard, his brother Ray Jr, and for their mom and the rest of their extended family for this terrible loss." Mayor de Blasio said, "This is a family who has done so much for New York City and now they're going through this loss and this pain. It's a very, very tough situation."
Source: FDNY and New York Post