The Aftermath of a Fatal Apparatus Wreck: Patti’s Story

I have been assigned to a truck company for most of my career in the New York City Fire Department. In 1994, however, I took a detail to drive the Safety Operating Battalion for about a year. My time there was certainly an interesting and eye-opening...


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At about the same time, I was summoned to the Corporation Counsel, a city “think tank” of lawyers who spend all day defending the City of New York in lawsuits. My task that day was to appear before a Corporation Counsel lawyer to give a deposition in the Flushing accident case. It was in December, just before Christmas. I was informed that the case would probably go to trial in January and that I had better plan to be available to testify.

After my deposition, I went back to the firehouse and relieved my captain, and informed him that I might be tied up in court for the month of January. He asked why and I told him that it had to do with the Flushing wreck. He then informed me that the firefighter that we had gotten on the rotation a few months ago, Tommy Daly, was the brother of the woman who was killed in the accident. Like I said, God works in mysterious ways. I kept this secret for six months. In that time, I was never called to testify and later found out that the case had been settled out of court, as many of these cases are.

It was now July and I was headed out of the firehouse for the last time before my vacation started. I was about to get into my car when Tommy Daly approached me. He said to me, “You know people in the fire department. Could you find out what happened with that accident that had claimed the life of my sister?” We talked for a long time. I had liked Tommy since the moment I met him, he had such a presence and it became apparent to me in my first few months of knowing him that he was going to be a very good firefighter. He had all the right stuff.

Effects of a Tragedy

Tommy asked me whether I would be willing to meet with his Mom, which I agreed to. When we met, Joan Daly and I too talked for a long time. I asked her whether she would be willing to help prevent a similar occurrence and she said she would. She is a gutsy lady. She agreed, with her remaining daughters, to try to put pen to paper and put into words their family’s experiences and emotions from that fateful day in July 1994 to the present.

I have on several occasions taken firefighter/operator accounts of serious or fatal apparatus wrecks and how they and their families were affected. This is the first time anywhere that I am aware of where the family of a victim of a fatal fire truck accident was willing to share the effects of their tragedy on their family with us, the fire service. This account will have a dramatic impact on anyone who reads it, but should have a profound effect on anyone who drives an emergency vehicle. Here is Patti’s Story.

PATRICIA ANN DALY 2/23/1975 – 7/11/1994

On July 7, 1994, my 19-year-old daughter, Patricia Ann Daly, also known as Patti, left the house to meet her friends. She said, “Good night, Ma, see you later.” I went to bed at my usual time. It was a hot summer night, so I put on my bedroom air conditioner. Sometime after midnight on July 8, the phone rang. Someone on the line said they were from New York University Hospital and they wanted to speak to me about Patti. I hung up on them, thinking my daughter Patti was home and asleep upstairs. The phone rang again and this time when I answered it I listened. They said Patti had been in a car accident and they needed permission to operate on her and remove a damaged spleen. I gave them permission and said I would be right there.

My husband and I left immediately for the hospital. During the short ride there, I kept thinking this was no big deal. People lived without a spleen. We were asked to go into a room and wait. Patti was in surgery. During the time we waited, several people came in to speak with us. I have very little memory of what they said. I just wanted to see my daughter. At some point during this waiting period, then-Fire Commissioner Howard Safir came in and spoke to us. It was at this time that I found out that Patti’s car had been hit by a fire truck. Still, I was not aware how critical Patti’s condition was. All I kept hearing was that Patti was stable. They didn’t know how extensive her injuries were.

When I finally got to see Patti after her surgery, she was unconscious. I thought she just did not come out of anesthesia. It wasn’t until much later that morning I was told she was in a coma. At this point, I wanted all my other children with me. I contacted Barbara, Thomas and Kathleen and again waited. We waited three days. Friends and relatives drifted in and out of the hospital. On July 11, more tests were done on Patti and we were told that Patti had a brain stem injury and there was no hope. Patti was declared brain dead and then she was gone.