Hundreds of New York's bravest stood shoulder to shoulder at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center as the flag draped the body of 42-year-old veteran William Tolley was carried out by members of his ladder company.
Tolley responded to a fire at Putnam Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens around 2:30 p.m. Thursday and worked to put it out. He was on the roof during a routine operation, clearing heat and smoke. As he attempted to enter Tower Ladder 135, it began sway.
An anguished FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro announced the firefighter fell five stories from the roof and perished.
"The circumstances of his fall are under investigation," Nigro said.
Eyewitnesses say they saw the ladder jerking. "It shook so hard that it pushed him down," an onlooker said.
Members of his Engine Company 286 watched in horror as the 14-year veteran lost his foot and plunged to his death.
"There was nothing about the fire that really had anything to do with the accident that occurred," Nigro said. "It was really in the operation that he was performing on the roof, which is a routine operation for us, and, somehow, he fell from the roof."
The routine operation is the subject of an intense investigation by the fire safety unit.