NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City firefighter died Thursday after falling five stories while battling a fire in Queens, officials said.
William Tolley, 42, was on the roof of the apartment building during a fire that started in a second floor apartment just before 2:30 p.m. when he fell, according to Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
Tolley was rushed to a hospital where he died. Three other people suffered minor injuries before the blaze was brought under control in less than an hour.
Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said the 14-year veteran from Ladder 135 Engine 286 in Ridgewood leaves behind his wife, Marie, and a daughter, Isabella, 8.
"A man dedicated to protecting others gave his life for this city," de Blasio said. "Today he made the ultimate sacrifice."
It was too early to say what caused the firefighter to fall about 20 minutes into the firefight. The circumstances remained under investigation.
"It was really in the operation that he was performing on the roof, which is a routine operation for us, and somehow he fell from the roof," said Nigro, who called his death a "terrible tragedy for the department."
The fire was not considered suspicious, Nigro said.
Angie Cordero, 43, told Newsday she was watching the fire from her house across the street when the firefighter fell.
"I was just looking at what was happening. All of the sudden I heard a noise," she said. "I just saw when the body came over. I started to scream."
Cordero said she ran out of the house "pretty shaken up."
"Just thinking you see this in movies, not here. It didn't feel real," she said.
The last New York City firefighter to die in the line of duty happened in September when an explosion at a marijuana grow house in the Bronx killed a fire battalion chief. Michael Fahy died after being hit by blast debris while responding to a report of a gas leak. Two men were arrested in that incident.
Last month, an emergency worker for the New York Fire Department was struck by her own ambulance and killed after the vehicle was stolen.
Yadira Arroyo, a mother of five sons, was responding to a routine call when she was flagged down by a pedestrian about a theft. Arroyo got out of the vehicle and a man darted into the driver's seat and ran over her, officials said.