Thousands Mourn at Funeral for FDNY Chief Killed in Bronx Explosion

The Wall Street Journal - October 03, 2016

by Mark Morales

YONKERS, N.Y.—Amid tears and the mournful wail of bagpipes, thousands gathered Saturday to say goodbye to Michael Fahy, the battalion chief at the Fire Department of New York who was killed earlier this week when he was crushed by debris from a home that exploded in the Bronx.

Mourners packed together in front of Annunciation Church in Yonkers while firefighters stood shoulder to shoulder at attention in their Class A uniforms. As many as 10,000 firefighters, some coming from as far as California, came for Chief Fahy’s funeral. He was 44 years old.

“He was thoughtful and profoundly kind,” said his wife, Fiona Brett Fahy, as she fought back tears throughout her eulogy. “The last remnants of the flowers he bought me for no reason still sit on my counter.”

Chief Fahy’s young children also spoke at the service.

“My dad was a fair, kind and honest man,” said his daughter, Anna. “He was the perfect dad.”

“I know you were proud of me and I’m so proud of you,” said his son, Michael. “Dad, you’re my hero.”

Chief Fahy’s casket, which was draped in an FDNY flag, was carried by an FDNY rig called a caisson, a truck specifically designed to carry fallen firefighters. He was led in by a motorcade of local police, bagpipers from the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and fire vehicles, including the SUV that Chief Fahy used to get to the scene of the house explosion on Tuesday.

His family filed out of three vans that followed the casket, with his wife standing in front. As the casket was lowered from the truck, she began to cry, scrunching her face and quietly sobbing, mouthing the words “I love you” while she held her children tight.

Ms. Brett Fahy broke down again as his body was carried in by battalion chiefs from his firehouse and other firefighters with whom he began his career in Harlem. “Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes as the casket was led into the church, followed by the family.

“Michael was one of those people who provide a foundation for everything good in our society,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during his eulogy. “He was someone we could look up to every day.”

On Tuesday, firefighters responded shortly before 6:30 a.m. to a call about the smell of gas coming from the home, officials said.

The firefighters discovered what appeared to be a marijuana grow house in the residence and reported it to police, law-enforcement officials said. Firefighters and police were evacuating nearby buildings when the explosion occurred, officials said.

Chief Fahy was directing evacuation operations from the street when he was hit by flying debris and killed, officials said.

Two men were arrested in connection with the blast and face possession of marijuana charges, officials said. Both face the possibility of those charges being escalated depending on the investigation, officials said.

Officials said investigators were still uncovering evidence from the home, including “botanical substances,” gas piping, meters and sealants used for the rooms where the marijuana was allegedly grown. The gas main under the street is also slated to be excavated in the coming days, authorities said.

On Thursday, Chief Fahy, a father of three, was promoted posthumously to deputy chief.

“Unfortunately, this tragedy did not spare him,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “This department lost a rising star. A star that shined brightly these last 17 years. And was destined to shine brightly for many, many years to come.”

“His loss is a terrible blow to our department,” Mr. Nigro said.

As the casket was led out of the church and hoisted back onto the FDNY rig, his son, Michael, saluted while his mother wept.

FDNY Battalion Commander Brain Fink presented Chief Fahy’s wife with the fallen firefighter’s helmet. Moments later, Michael proudly carried his father’s gear.

“He was a great guy. The nicest guy. Very polite,” said retired firefighter James Bittles, 48. “He always did whatever you wanted. He would do anything for you.”