NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The doctor who oversaw the New York City Medical Examiner’s office for more than two decades and whose staff helped identify thousands of 9/11 victims has died.

Charles Hirsch was 79.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Hirsch’s death Friday. He said Hirsch, who served as the city’s chief medical examiner for 24 years, was a dedicated public servant and talented medical expert.

Hirsch was appointed the city’s chief medical examiner by Mayor Ed Koch in 1989.

He rushed to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and was hit by falling debris as the first tower collapsed.

His aides set up a temporary morgue, and Hirsch oversaw the Medical Examiner’s office as pathologists worked for years to identify remains of Sept. 11 victims. He created and built the largest public DNA laboratory in the country which enabled the office to identify those remains.

De Blasio credited Hirsch with making the office a “national leader in forensic pathology.”

Hirsch retired in 2013.

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