FDNY honors member more than 80 years after his death
A plaque honoring Firefighter Thomas F. O’Brien was unveiled Tuesday during a brief, poignant ceremony to commemorate his death in October 1935
By Anthony M. Destefano
NEW YORK — More than 80 years after he died in the line of duty, a Queens firefighter’s death was finally recognized by the FDNY during a ceremony at department headquarters in Brooklyn.
A plaque honoring Firefighter Thomas F. O’Brien was unveiled Tuesday during a brief but poignant ceremony to commemorate his death in October 1935 while fighting a fire in Manhattan. O’Brien, a widower with five children, had been living in Richmond Hills when he died.
For years, the FDNY wouldn’t recognize O’Brien’s death as being in the line of duty. But after his grandson Arthur O’Brien of New Jersey hired retired Nassau County Surrogate Edward W. McCarty III to do an investigation and commence litigation, the FDNY agreed to put the deceased firefighters name on its memorial wall, along with the names of over 1,150 other firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
“Relieved,” was how Arthur O’Brien described his feeling after the ceremony, which capped over a six year quest to gets his grandfather honored. He was joined at the ceremony by his grandfather’s great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren.
“It is like a fruition of a dream,” said O’Brien’s sister, Betty Seibold of Massapequa Park. “My brother has been working on this for so long and we had times we weren’t really sure it was doing to happen . . . This is just something that is wonderful.”
Thomas O’Brien, 48, died on October 28, 1935, hours after he suffered injuries in a fire on West 26th Street in Manhattan, apparently after he was struck on the head by falling debris. An investigation by McCarty, chronicled last year in Newsday, uncovered an autopsy report from 1935 which stated O’Brien died from a fractured skull and brain injuries suffered during the fire.
At the ceremony on Tuesday morning, Arthur O’Brien thanked not only McCarty but former city medical examiner Michael Baden, who did a recent analysis of the original autopsy results and Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association for help in talking with FDNY officials.
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