9/11 Firefighter Dies of Ground Zero-Related Illness

The Patch - February 02, 2018

by Ciara McCarthy, Patch Staff

Ray Phillips died of a World Trade Center-related illness, according to his family and fire officials.

MANHATTAN, NY — A firefighter who was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks died of a a 9/11-related illness, fire officials confirmed.

Ray Phillips died of a World Trade Center-related illness on Saturday. Fire officials with the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York confirmed that Phillips death was 9/11-related on Tuesday.

Phillips, 64, contracted asthma while doing search and recovery missions at Ground Zero. An asthma attack caused a fatal heart attack over the weekend, his family told the New York Daily News.

Phillips worked as a New York firefighter starting in 1977. He later went on to serve as the chief of the South Blooming Grove Fire Department in Orange County, New York, according to the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Phillips was remembered as an enthusiastic and dedicated member of the FDNY. Every year, Phillips would dress up as Santa Claus for the department's holiday events.

"He played Santa for our children for over 30 years and he was great with the kids," Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, told the Daily News. "Even times when he was sick, he never missed an event. He was a true gentleman and a proud firefighter and he realized that being a firefighter means you have to give back sometimes. And he did more of his share of giving back."

More than 160 FDNY personnel have died from 9/11-related illnesses since the 2001 attacks, according to the FDNY. Advocates believe that number is low estimate, and that additional first responders have died from 9/11-linked diseases and complications.