BREAKING NEWS: New Smyrna Beach's Bob Tolley grieving for NYC firefighter-son who fell off roof of 5-story building to his death during fire in Queens

Buck that NYC firefighter William Tolley was involved with leading to his 5-story fall to his death / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer photos / Above, Bob Tolley, New Smyrna Beach resident, is shown in the inset of a shot with his son, William Tolley, then a volunteer with the Hicksville, NY Fire Department, in the aftermath of 9/11 as part of the clean-up and recovery crews. The younger Tolley, a 14-year veteran of the FDNY, was killed in the line of duty on Thursday when he fell from a five-story apartment building while fighting a fire. The raw video is a YouTube download of the tragic scene. At left is the bucket used for him to access the roof. When firefighter Tolley attempted to step onto the roof from the bucket, it had moved and led to his fatal fall.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- Bob Tolley and his wife, Marian, are grieving in their New Smyrna Beach home over his New York City firefighter-son William Tolley's deadly fall from the roof of a five-story building in Queens Thursday afternoon during a fire call.

​The 69-year-old father, a Vietnam combat Marine, who has suffered congestive heart failure for three years now since he was in a coma for two weeks, was devastated when he got the call at 4:30 p.m. from his daughter-in-law, Maria. William Tolley, the youngest of Bob Tolley's two sons was just 42 years old.

Besides his wife, the 14-year-firefighter leaves behind their 8-year-old daughter, Isabella. The tragedy occurred at 2:20 p.m. William Tolley was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, the hospital where he was taken unconscious and in cardiac arrest."It's just devastating -- a crushing blow," Tolley said, trying to hold back sobs, his voice cracking. "I pray he didn't suffer. My son, Billy! My son, Billy is gone! When he was falling over the edge -- in that second or two -- he had to know his life was over -- that he was going to die. To me that's suffering thinking about what was going through his mind right then."

The elder Tolley said he's prayed over and over since he got the call that his son didn't suffer once he hit the pavement. "That's what I keep praying: Dear God, help please (that) he didn't suffer, he didn't feel any pain," Tolley said, his voice trailing off. 

William Tolley was apparently tying to step onto the roof from the aerial bucket of the ladder truck when he lost his footing and plunged to the concrete sidewalk below.

William Tolley, the NYC firefighter, who fell to his death from  5th story apt building is remembered by his dad, Bob Tolley in New Smyrna Beach, FL / Headline Surfer

Bob Tolley of New Smyrna Beach, FL grieves for his son, William Tolley, NYC firefighter killed in the line of duty / Headline Surfer Bob Tolley, the 69-year-old father, a Vietnam combat Marine, who has suffered congestive heart failure for three years now since he was in a coma for two weeks, was devastated when he got the call at 4:30 p.m. from his daughter-in-law, Maria. William Tolley, the youngest of Bob Tolley's two sons was just 42 years old. Besides his wife, the 14-year-firefighter leaves behind their 8-year-old daughter, Isabella. The tragedy occurred at 2:20 p.m. William Tolley was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, the hospital where he was taken unconscious and in cardiac arrest.

"It's just devastating -- a crushing blow," Tolley said, trying to hold back sobs, his voice cracking. "I pray he didn't suffer. My son, Billy! My son, Billy is gone! When he was falling over the edge -- in that second or two -- he had to know his life was over -- that he was going to die. To me that's suffering thinking about what was going through his mind right then."

The elder Tolley said he's prayed over and over since he got the call that his son didn't suffer once he hit the pavement. 

"That's what I keep praying: Dear God, help please (that) he didn't suffer, he didn't feel any pain," Tolley said, his voice trailing off. William Tolley was apparently trying to step onto the roof from the aerial bucket of the ladder truck when he lost his footing and plunged to the concrete sidewalk below.

“It sounded like an explosion when he fell,” Angie Cordero, who lives across the street, told the New York Daily News. “People from above could see the blood from his head. A worker nearby got sick when he saw it.”

Still, Tolley was alive, but unconscious and went into cardiac arrest. He died shortly after transport to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.

Tolley's day started just like any other -- neither he nor his loved ones, wife, Marie, nor daughter, Isabelle, nor his grieving father, Bob Tolley *and his wife, Marian) knowing it would be his last.

“I just saw him this morning,” friend and neighbor Mike Gleason, 35, told the Daily News. “He just said hello to me and had his daughter on his shoulders ... taking his daughter up to school.”

Twenty minutes into the blaze, the fire was pretty much out when Tolley was stepping from the roof to the bucket, when he he fell -- apparently resulting from the bucket, which witnessed described as moving, and fell to the concrete sidewalk below. Eyewitnesses told responding media outlets Tolley never moved as fellow firefighters rushed to his side and quickly got him onto an ambulance bed for transport.

New York City Mayor de Blasio arrived at the Wyckoff ER at 4:25 p.m., but Tolley had already succumbed to his injuries.

Bob Tolley & NYC-firefighter son, William / Headline SurferPhotos for Headline Surfer / Bob Tolley is shown with his son, William, when he first became a member of the NYFD 14 years ago. And tat far left, is a vintage shot of the son as a little boy, dressed as a firefighter.

The mayor, described as visibly shaken in media reports, emerged from the emergency room to tell reporters, “Everybody is in a state of shock and disbelief,” describing Tolley as a veteran firefighter and “a man dedicated to protecting others. The mayor added, "“He gave his life to this work ... We have lost another hero today. He made the ultimate sacrifice.”

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who was with the mayor said an investigation was commenced with the ladder truck deliberately left at the scene, but he was at a loss for words as to how this tragedy could have occurred in what he himself deemed "a routine operation,"  with the fire contained to one apartment on the second floor was pretty much out when Tolley fell to his death.

"It is a terrible tragedy for a department that has known more than its share of tragedy,” Nigro added. 

Politicians, friends of grieving father Bob Tolley shocked by news 

While NYC firefighter William Tolley's death was big news in New York and ran across the AP wire services, it went unreported here in Volusia County, Florida until Headline Surfer posted this story. There was nothing in print or online in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Palmer Wilson, also of New Smyrna Beach, and a retired lieutenant with the Montgomery County Police in Maryland, said he empathizes with Tolley and his family. 

"As a father myself, my thoughts and prayers are with him on the loss of his son," said Wilson, when contacted by Headline Surfer for comment. "Yes, when you are a family member of a firefighter or a cop, you know there's a chance on any given day they might not make it home. That doesn't make it any easier for Bob Tolley or anyone else who finds themselves in a tragic circumstance like this." 

Mayor Jim Hathaway told Headline Surfer he was stunned by the tragic news and immediately offered prayers for Tolley and his family.

The mayor told Headline Surfer, "I feel bad for Bob. I, myself am a  father of a sheriff's sergeant so I understand a call like this could come, but you are never really prepared for it. I can't even imagine the grief he is is going through with the death of his son, a hero. No parent wants to lose a son or a daughter under any circumstances.

Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, a New Smyrna Beach resident, responded via a Facebook message back to the internet news site: "Oh no! Sooo sad."

Palmer Wilson / Headline SurferPalmer Wilson, also of New Smyrna Beach, and a retired lieutenant with the Montgomery County Police in Maryland, said he empathizes with Tolley and his family.

"As a father myself, my thoughts and prayers are with him on the loss of his son," said Wilson, when contacted by Headline Surfer for comment. "Yes, when you are a family member of a firefighter or a cop, you know there's a chance on any given day they might not make it home. That doesn't make it any easier for Bob Tolley or anyone else who finds themselves in a tragic circumstance like this." 

New Smyrna Beach Mayor Jim Hathaway / Headline SurferMayor Jim Hathaway told Headline Surfer he was stunned by the tragic news and immediately offered prayers for Tolley and his family.

The mayor told Headline Surfer, "I feel bad for Bob. I, myself am a  father of a sheriff's deputy so I understand a call like this could come, but you are never really prepared for it. I can't even imagine the grief he is is going through with the death of his son, a hero. No parent wants to lose a son or a daughter under any circumstances.

Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys of New Smyrna Beach / Headline SurferVolusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, a New Smyrna Beach resident, responded via a Facebook message back to the internet news site: "Oh no! Sooo sad."

 

William Tolley is the 1,72nd member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty since 1965. The most New York City firefighters to lose their lives in a single event was the 9/11 terrorist attacks where 343 firefighters, including a chaplain and two paramedics, were counted in the rubble of the Twin Towers that collapsed. Tolley's son, William Tolley, who was a volunteer firefighter with the Hicksville Fire Department at the time, was part of the clean-up and recovery crews in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards. Frederick is enrolled online at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's a third of the way though the Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation will be in March 2018.