Longtime Sandy Hook chief dies after call

Chief William Halstead led the department's response to the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Duty Death: William "Bill" Halstead, Sr. - [Sandy Hook, Connecticut]

End of Service: 07/08/2022


By Leila Merrill

NEWTOWN, Conn. — William Halstead, Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue chief and Newtown's Director of Emergency Management, died Friday at his home after responding to a call.

"Despite the efforts of SHVFR personnel, Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Newtown Police Department officers, the Newtown paramedic, and the Newtown Emergency Communications Center team, Chief Halstead passed shortly after the incident," the department said Sunday in a Facebook post. “We are grateful for his years of service to his hometown. Please grant us the space and time to grieve.”

Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Chief William Halstead, 72, served as chief since 1978, according to the department.
Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Chief William Halstead, 72, served as chief since 1978, according to the department. (Photo/Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue)

The U.S. Fire Administration states that Halstead died of "an apparent heart attack."

Halstead, 73, served as chief since 1978, according to the department. 

During his tenure, Halstead led the department's response to the 2012 elementary school shooting in which 20 children and six adults were killed. 

"We set up a triage area right by our rescue truck for major injuries and we set up a second triage here at the firehouse for the walking wounded," Halstead said in an ABC News article. "Unfortunately, we only got to work on two people."

The firehouse became a gathering place for parents awaiting word about their children, and first responders stayed there with them. 

Halstead joined the department at the age of 16 and also served as the town fire marshal until he retired from that post in 2016, according to the Newtown Bee.

Halstead was elected president of the Connecticut State Firefighters Association in 2020 and was a member of Connecticut Fire Marshals Association, Connecticut Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Arson Investigators, Fairfield County Chiefs (and past president), Fairfield/New Haven County Fire Marshals Association and Connecticut Parade Marshals.

“His gifts to Newtown are immeasurable. I will miss hearing ‘401 (his call sign) is on,’ all the time on the scanner, but I will miss his smile and friendship most. My sincere condolences to his wife, Debbie, his family and his Sandy Hook family," First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

One of Halstead’s three children is SHVFR's EMS captain.

On  Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont today announced that U.S. and state flags in Connecticut should immediately be lowered to half-staff in honor of Halstead and remain lowered until sunset on the date of interment, according to his office. The internment date has not been set. 

 

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