MALVERNE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island volunteer firefighter was killed in a hunting accident over the weekend in upstate New York.
Charles Bruce, a 52-year-old father of two, was on an annual hunting trip with friends from the Malverne Fire Department when he was shot in the chest Saturday in Westford just east of Cooperstown.
Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said one of Bruce’s hunting partners may have mistaken him for a deer.
Bruce finished hunting because it was getting dark and was coming out of the woods around 4:30 p.m., Muehl said.
One of his hunting partners, who was in a tree stand about 60 yards away, saw what he thought to be an antler, Muehl said.
“Since he’d shot deer in that area before, he shot over there,” Muehl told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “When he went to look at his deer, it wasn’t his deer, it was his friend.”
The district attorney said Bruce was not wearing blaze orange, the bright color that is associated with hunting, when the incident occurred. Wearing the color is not required by law, but the Department of Environmental Conservation told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff that there hasn’t been a single accident in 10 years when a hunter was wearing the color.
Gusoff also reported that Muehl may convene a grand jury to consider homicide charges in the case, despite that state police ruled the shooting an accident. Muehl said the tragedy should serve as a wake-up call to hunters.
“I feel sorry for the person for shooting his best friend but on the same hand you say to yourself, ‘What on Earth were you thinking?'” Muehl said.
Meanwhile, the Malverne Fire Department is in mourning.
Purple and black bunting was hung on the building and flags were at half-staff in honor of the 17-year veteran.
The fire department released a statement saying, “The Malverne Fire Department is very saddened over the loss of our friend and brother Firefighter Charlie Bruce. Charlie was a true friend, great firefighter and all around wonderful person. Charlie loved spending time with his friends and family and serving his community as a fireman. He lived an extremely active life and shared so much of himself with the members of the Malverne Fire Department and with all of his friends from several walks of life. We will miss him terribly.”
Fellow firefighter Dave Gildea said Bruce always had a smile on his face and a cigar in his mouth.
“I can tell you that Charlie lived his life every day to the absolute fullest and was a great example of the way people should live their lives,” Gildea told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “We’re all going to miss Charlie, not just as a fireman but we’ll miss him terribly as a friend.”
Police have not identified the shooter and the district attorney told CBS2’s Gusoff that he was inconsolable in Malverne.
The DEC said there are more than 20 shooting accidents, including about three fatalities, during the average hunting season.
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