The Story Behind The 1936 Line of Duty Death of Thomas J Meehan

FF Mehan

Thomas J Meehan, 45 years old and was appointed to the SFD on July 10, 1918.  He was assigned to SFD Station No. 2, when he died in the line of duty on April 6, 1932.  His death was a result of being ejected off the apparatus and through the glass window of a business at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Rose Park Avenue after the apparatus he was riding collided with a City garbage truck and then hit a telephone pole.  He died the day after the accident in Stamford Hospital of a fractured skull and other internal injuries.  He left behind his widowed mother of 29 Manor Street.

Meehan Fatal Accident

A Solemn Requiem Mass was held at St John’s Church and was well attended by Mayor Joseph A Boyle, members of the Board of Public Safety, a delegation of the Common Council as well as firefighters from Sound Beach, Darien and Norwalk.

He was laid to rest in St John’s Cemetery in Springdale.

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The following transcription comes from a newspaper article that appeared on April 5, 1932, the day of the accident.

 

Just After Early Forenoon Crash Of Fire Engine And City Garbage Truck Today

Six injured when a fire engine collides with the city garbage truck


Two firemen in critical condition and truck driver has fractured of school – crash happens at Greenwich and Richmond Hill Avenue’s – firemen Meehan is hurled through closed door of store.


 

Five firemen and the driver of a city garbage truck were injured a few minutes before 7 o’clock this morning when No. 2 Engine and the garbage truck were in collision at Greenwich and Richmond Hill avenues.

Meehan’s condition is critical

One of the firemen, Thomas Meehan of 29 Manor St., is not expected to live, and another James M Maloney of 41 Forest Lawn Ave. is in a critical condition. Others injured were:

Capt. Frank J Fox of Merrill Avenue, thought to have a spinal injury. X-ray plates were taken of his back at 11:30. Firemen Thomas Clark of 9 Greenwich Ave., three broken ribs and a broken heel. Nelson Hagerty of 62 Elm St., driver of the garbage truck, fractured skull. Haggerty walked around for two hours after the crash and then complained of a head injury. He was taken to the Stamford Hospital, where the fracture was discovered. Michael Cox of 86 Stephen St., writing with Haggerty and fireman William J Densky of 22 Rugby St., driver of the fire apparatus, escaped with a shaking up and Densky had minor lacerations.

Internal injuries

Meehan received internal injuries and lost a quantity of blood. Both he and Maloney were still unconscious at noon, when Maloney was taken to the operating room of the hospital where Dr. Frank C McMahon treated a wound at the base of his spine, from which he had lost a quantity of blood. He is also thought to be suffering from internal injuries. Meehan, swathed in bandages, was grasping for breath as Maloney was being moved to the operating room.

The fire engine was going west on Richmond Hill Avenue and a garbage truck was headed south on the Greenwich Avenue. Haggerty claimed that the traffic light at the intersection of the two streets was at green for him to cross Greenwich Avenue. Policeman Thomas Tamburri, the first policeman to arrive at the scene, said that Penske told him that the traffic light was against the fire apparatus, but that the siren was sounding for some distance before the apparatus reached the intersection. Densky later told chief Victor that he slowed the engine at the crossing.

Haggerty and Cox declared they did not hear the siren, but said the noise of the truck on which they were riding would make it impossible for them to hear the siren until they were very close to it.

At the intersection each driver saw the other about the same moment. Haggerty said his truck was moving between 15 and 20 miles an hour and he was able to swerve to the right into Richmond Hill Avenue, headed west, the same direction as that of the apparatus.

Through closed-door

The engines speed was too fast to allow it to being swerved south on Greenwich Avenue, but Densky pulled close to the south curb of Richmond Hill Avenue, seeking to avoid the collision. The rear end of the apparatus swerved into a telephone pole, stopping it in half as the heavy garbage truck sideswiped the engine.

Meehan, Maloney and Clark were riding on the rear of the engine and all were thrown off. Meehan was hurled through the air about 15 feet, his body going through the closed door of the store of Sotire Brothers at the southwest corner of the intersection. The others fell into the street.

A passing car was pressed into service and took Maloney, Clark and Capt. Fox to the Stanford hospital. Policeman Thomas Tamburri, who was at Greenwich Avenue and McCullough Street when he heard the crash, ran to the scene and found Meehan on the floor of the store, facedown and bleeding profusely from a gaping hole in his head. He thought he was dead, but as he knelt close to the injured firemen, he heard him speaking in a low whisper;

– Calls for priest

“Priest. Priest. Get a priest.”

Then Meehan lost consciousness. Tamburri called headquarters and the police ambulance was sent to the scene to take him to the hospital. At the same time, word was sent to the Rev. Jerome Cook of St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, and he hurried to the hospital where he administered the last rites of the Catholic Church to Meehan.

Just misses it.

Father cook also administered last rites of the church to Fireman Maloney a few minutes after 7 o’clock and visited them again later in the morning.

Chief Veit, by chance missed being on the engine. When the alarm sounded at his home, he hurriedly dressed and was in the street when the engine passed en route to the fire. His car was coming right behind and he waved the engine to continue and got in his car and went to the fire by another route. He did not know of the accident until several minutes after he arrived at the fire.

Small fire

The alarm was from 218 at 6:47 AM for a fire in the home of Joseph Autenti at 3 Grenhart Road off West Avenue. Carelessness with kerosene in making a fire in the kitchen stove caused a slight fire, which had been extinguished by the occupants of the house when firemen arrived.

Mayor Joseph A Boyle was an early visitor to the scene of the accident and also visited the hospital where he ordered the injured firemen be given every possible attention.

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