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Firefighter Dies in 5-Story Fall Battling Queens Blaze

By  Ben Fractenberg Gwynne Hogan and Noah  Hurowitz | April 20, 2017 3:33pm | Updated on April 21, 2017 9:08am

 Firefighter William Tolley, 42, died Thursday after he fell 5 stories from a ladder while fighting a two-alarm fire in Ridgewood Queens.
Firefighter William Tolley, 42, died Thursday after he fell 5 stories from a ladder while fighting a two-alarm fire in Ridgewood Queens.
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Twitter/@FDNY and DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

RIDGEWOOD — A veteran firefighter died Thursday after falling five stories from the bucket of a fire truck ladder while responding to a blaze in Queens, according to officials and witnesses.

William Tolley, 42, who worked in the department for 14 years, was being lifted to the roof of 1615 Putnam Ave. near Wyckoff Avenue at about 2:30 p.m. when he plunged to the sidewalk and died, officials said.

Tolley, who worked from ladder 135 in Glendale, left behind a wife and 8-year-old daughter. He was the 1,147th FDNY member to die in the line of duty in the department's history.

"Everyone is in a state of shock and grief," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference at Wyckoff Hospital, adding that the city would support his family for "years to come." 

Several witnesses said Tolley appeared to lose his footing before he fell from the bucket. 

"I saw the bucket jerk. When it jerked, he fell," said witness Mayer Weber, a construction worker who was across the street when Tolley fell. He added that the side door of the bucket was open when the accident happened. "That door was open. It jerked. He fell sideways. Everyone started running."

Angie Cordero, 43, who lives across the street from where the fire broke out, said "it just sound like an explosion. All I saw was the firemen came running down. The moment that I saw the body hit the ground I was shook. It was something like out of a movie.”

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the agency would investigate how Tolley fell. There were several other firefighters on the roof working to release heat and gas from the building, Nigro added. 

"It is terrible tragedy," Nigro said. "Our hearts are primarily with William's wife, Marie."

Tolley, who lived in Bethpage, Long Island, was performing a routine procedure to ventilate the building while firefighters put out the blaze inside the building. 

More than 100 firefighters responded to the second-story fire, a fire department spokeswoman said.  Three civilians suffered minor injuries and the blaze was brought under control by 3 p.m. 

Tolley, who was also a drummer in a metal band called Internal Bleeding, was fondly remembered by his fellow musicians.

"He was a good, decent and honorable man who loved his friends, his family and the people he served. There will never be another like him. There are no words to describe the utter sadness and despair we feel right now. We love you Bill," the band posted to Facebook.

"Bill was our rock. Our heart. And supplier of insane laughter," they added.


Jake Lemoda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, extended his condolences to Tolley's family and co-workers.

"I join with all FDNY members in honoring the memory of our brother who unfortunately lost his life in the line of duty earlier today," he said. "This is an extremely dangerous job that our dedicated members put their lives on the line every day to protect the residents of the City of New York. On behalf of the officers union, I offer condolences to his family and friends."