A 14-year veteran firefighter fell to his death while battling a fire in a Queens apartment building yesterday afternoon. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said of Firefighter William Tolley's death, "It is a terrible tragedy for a Department that's certainly known its share—more than its share—of tragedies."
A fire broke out on the second floor of 1615 Putnam Avenue, a five-story apartment building, and Tolley's firehouse, Ladder 135 in Glendale, responded around 2:30 p.m. Tolley was in the bucket of the ladder, and Nigro explained that he "was operating on the roof—that was his position as the outside ventilation firefighter operating around the area where the Ladder 135’s bucket was located. Firefighter Tolley fell five stories from the roof and he perished about 20 minutes into fighting that fire. The circumstances of the tragedy and the fall are right now under investigation by our safety command and by our Bureau of Fire Investigation."
He added, "There was nothing about the fire that really had anything to do with the accident that occurred. It was really in the operation he was performing on the roof, which is a routine operation for us, and somehow he fell from the roof."
According to WABC 7, "Multiple eyewitnesses said the tower ladder suddenly jerked." Witness Michael Lewis told WCBS 2, "I seen the fireman go up the ladder, go in the white thing, the bucket. Then the ladder shakes. I don’t know why it jerks or shakes but after it shakes, he fall out."
Tolley, 42, was married with an eight-year-old daughter and lived in Bethpage, Long Island. His wife Marie was seen blowing a kiss to his body as it was carried out of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center last night. From the Post: "Firefighters lined the hospital’s loading dock while the 14-year veteran was carried about 100 steps to an ambulance. His body was then transported to the medical examiner’s office. Tolley’s fellow smokeeaters were seen hugging each other and wiping away tears as the ambulance carrying him pulled out of the parking lot. His wife, who was still visibly shaken, was consoled by family members as it drove away."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who, along with Commissioner Nigro, met with the family at the hospital, called Tolley a "man dedicated to protecting others gave his life to this work and, like all members of the FDNY, understood every single day he was putting his life on the line, but he did it willingly in service of others. Today, he made the ultimate sacrifice. Our hearts go out to his family."
Tolley was also a drummer in metal band Internal Bleeding. He said in a 2013 interview, “When I am not drumming or playing shows with IB, I work at the Fire Department. When I am not working I also watch my 4 year old at home. I am a family guy. My job and my family are awesome. My guys work with me, when I need time off for a show they step up and fill in for me at work. No other job in the world can compare to what I do. Everyone is very supportive and understanding.”