TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBS 2/WCBS 880) – A funeral service will be held Friday for one of the two men killed in a manhole tragedy in Westchester County. On Thursday, dozens of friends and families gathered to say a final goodbye to the two voluneer firefighters.
The respect for two fallen firefighters could be measured in the overflow of Westchester’s bravest outside Coffey Funeral Home in Tarrytown on Thursday night.
Hundreds of firefighters, emergency service workers, friends and family gathered for the wakes of firefighter John Kelly and Public Works employee Anthony Ruggiero, also a volunteer firefighter.
Ruggiero was Ed McClain’s best friend, and he says the loss has been to much for him to bear.
“Anthony, he was the type of guy that would do anything for you. He was a kind man, a family man,” McClain said. “I love him. Anthony, if you’re listening, I’m here for you, and we’re never going to forget him.”
Frank Streany knew John Kelly for more than 20 years.
“Great guy – [he would] do anything for you,” Streany, former chief of the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department, said. “Like one of the other ex-chiefs said: he’d jump in front of the bus for you.”
Ruggiero, 48, and 51-year-old Kelly died on Monday after being overcome by sewage gases. Ruggiero had gone into a sewage manhole to repair a blockage, and Kelly went in after him.
Tarrytown Village Manager Michael Blau said an air quality monitor could have saved their lives. A monitor was available just a few feet away, in an unlocked fire truck, but neither man tested the air as required by law.
“It’s a terrible, terrible accident,” Village Manager Michael Blau said. “Obviously, there are a lot of questions out there.”
State law required Kelly to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus, but he didn’t.
“When you are hurrying and avoid your protocols, you get into trouble,” one Tarrytown resident said.
For now, the questions of how and why the tragedy happened to their comrades and friends are put on hold while the community says goodbye to two men who they say always put others first.
Tarrytown has banned all employees from entering manholes until a state investigation into the deaths is complete.