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NYC will add firefighter who died in 1935 to memorial wall

The grandson of firefighter Thomas O'Brien went to court last October to get him added to the wall


Associated Press

NEW YORK — New York City will add the name of a firefighter who died in 1935 to the Fire Department of New York's memorial wall, the city's law department said Wednesday, ending a year-long struggle by his descendants who insisted his death was due to an injury he suffered while battling a blaze.

The grandson of firefighter Tom O'Brien went to court in October to get him added to the wall that honors those firefighters who died as a result of a fire. O'Brien had been fighting a Manhattan fire on Oct. 27, 1935, and upon returning to his firehouse, went to sleep and never woke up.

Thomas O'Brien in his firefighter's uniform after he joined the FDNY in 1917. (Courtesy of Arthur O'Brien via AP)
Thomas O'Brien in his firefighter's uniform after he joined the FDNY in 1917. (Courtesy of Arthur O'Brien via AP)

Arthur O'Brien said an autopsy from the time showed his grandfather had a skull fracture along with brain lacerations, apparently from the fire, and listed the death being caused by those injuries. It also noted he had ingested large amounts of alcohol, which his descendants insisted was an attempt at self-medication for the head injury.

It was unclear what led to O'Brien's death not being ruled as coming from on-the-job injuries. Without that designation, and the resulting benefits, five of O'Brien's six children were sent to live in an orphanage, his grandson said.

"It meant so much to me personally to be able to right this wrong," Arthur O'Brien said. "This never would have happened today and it shouldn't have happened 82 years ago."

A spokesman for the law department said the settlement "is a fair resolution of the legal matter."

The Fire Department of New York did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Arthur O'Brien had filed legal papers to have his grandfather's name added to the wall last October.

The settlement agreement calls for Tom O'Brien's name to be added to the wall within 90 days. The city's law department said the agreement would be signed and submitted to the court in the coming days.

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