NY fire captain dies after tree falls in road
Captain Justin Scharschu was driving when a massive tree fell and landed on the road
By Paul Brooks
ROSENDALE, N.Y. — A massive tree fell onto a pickup truck early Monday, killing the driver, Tillson volunteer firefighter Justin Scharschu, 28.
"It's awful. You won't find a better young man anywhere," said John Kouhout of Port Ewen, Scharschu's uncle.
It was "absolutely" a freak accident, Kouhout said as he stood alongside the road at the accident site on Route 32, about a half-mile north of the Dewitt Mills Road intersection.
He clambered about 15 feet up the steep bank, gripping saplings and vines to reach the shattered stump of the white oak tree. The base was 4 or 5 feet wide.
"Rotted," he said.
Francesco Cordaro stood in front of his house, a good 40 feet opposite the wooded mountainside where the stump protruded from the ground. The tree's branches had slapped his mailbox.
Ulster Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum's office said it got multiple 911 calls at 6:08 a.m. of a serious accident on Route 32. The preliminary investigation indicates that Scharschu's 2015 Ford F350 either struck the tree or was struck by it as the tree fell. The crushed truck rolled off the road and into woods along the right shoulder where it stopped.
Another neighbor,who did not want to give her name, said the sound of the crash woke her and her family. She said she had no doubt that the tree had fallen onto Scharschu's truck. Her son ran into the dark and was the first person to reach Scharschu in the wrecked pickup, she said, and told her that Scharschu was unresponsive.
Fred Harries, the Bloomington fire chief, said his department was at the scene for about seven hours. Getting Scharschu out was "a heavy extraction," he said.
The sheriff's press release said Scharschu died at the scene.
Tillson Fire Chief William Miller said Scharschu was heading to work when the accident happened. Scharschu was a captain in the volunteer department and had been one of its 25 members for nine or 10 years.
"He was a hard worker," another firefighter said. Many of the volunteers milled about the firehouse as news of the death sunk in. Miller said Monday that counselors were on the way to talk with the department's firefighters.
Plans were already underway for a full firefighter ceremony to honor Scharschu and his service. That was the parents' request, Miller said.
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