Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00
Ten years to the day after a motorist traveling southbound on Glen Cove Road in Greenvale plowed through road closure barricades, and hurtled into unsuspecting firefighters, killing one of them, dozens of area firefighters crowded into the same area this past Sunday, March 25, to pay tribute to their fallen colleague.
Captain Allen Frye, of the Roslyn Rescue Fire Company, had been leading Roslyn firefighters in a training exercise, when the oncoming car struck him. He succumbed to his injuries a short time later at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
“We are here today to remember a brother and a friend,” Chief Peter Liotta told his men, who huddled closely together around a memorial wreath and Frye’s helmet. Chief Liotta’s words were preceded by a short prayer service led by the department chaplain.
“Everyone has a story about him, and never a bad story,” Chief Liotta recounted to the group, clutching a red rose. “Not a day goes by that I don’t look at his helmet and remember his smile.”
Firefighter Brian Baumgarten was just 17 years old at the time of Capt. Frye’s death, and in his short time in the department as a probationary firefighter, had grown particularly close to him. Like many others present at this week’s memorial, he bore witness to the tragic accident and the chaotic and ultimately fruitless efforts of rescuers who were rendering aid, a scene that he says will never leave his mind.
In an interview with Newsday published around the time of the funeral in 2002, Baumgarten recounted how Frye served as a mentor and leader to him, and how his outsized physical stature stood in such contrast to his soft and warm heart.
“Captain Al is someone I still look up to, and someone I will never forget,” said Firefighter Baumgarten after paying his respects at the memorial service this week. Now a professional in the finance industry, Baumgarten remembers so many of the life lessons Frye instilled in him. “He intervened on my behalf in the firehouse and in my personal life in ways that I will never forget and I just wish that more of our current young men and women would have had the chance to know Big Al.”
Scores of firefighters from the Roslyn Rescue and Roslyn Highlands Fire Companies, as well as the neighboring Sea Cliff and Glenwood fire companies, were on hand to show their support. Several agencies had responded to assist Roslyn on the night that Capt. Frye was killed, and in the days that followed as the fire company prepared for the funeral arrangements. Frye’s family was also in attendance.
Fire officials said that in 1998, Capt. Frye was awarded the coveted Firefighter of the Year Award from the Fifth Battalion for his heroic efforts in pulling an elderly woman out of her burning home in Roslyn Harbor.
According to Capt. Jon Sendach, a fire department spokesman, Capt. Frye was heavily involved with community relations, organizing the annual Open House, which is timed to Fire Prevention Month in October. Capt. Frye was also responsible for the annual children’s Christmas party, and coordinated fire prevention classes at area elementary schools.
“Captain Frye was a distinguished leader and a true gentleman,” noted Capt. Sendach.
Another firefighter who suffered minor injuries in the 2002 incident has recovered and is back to full duty.