Thousands of people gathered on Saturday morning to pay their respects to fallen FDNY Lieutenant Howard Carpluk Jr. who died during a fierce Bronx fire. The 43-year-old veteran firefighter was laid to rest at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Islip, Long Island.
His wife, Debra, said his loss would leave a permanent hole in the family: "I've told my children that I can never fill his shoes."
Debra, along with other mourners, recalled how the veteran firefighter was a firehouse prankster who never grew tired of kidding around with friends and co-workers.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "In Engine 42, it wasn't uncommon to answer a phone and find it covered in peanut butter."
Carpluk, a 20-year veteran of the FDNY, was killed along with probationary firefighter Michael Reilly on August 27th while battling a blaze at a store in the Mount Eden section of the Bronx. Carpluk was actually assigned to another fire company but had been working with Reilly's company that day.
During Carpluk's career, he was awarded two citations for bravery, including one for a rescue in March of 1988, when he saved the lives of two unconscious men he found in the bedroom of a fire-engulfed apartment in the Bronx.
He is survived by his wife and two children. Fellow firefighters have set up a Lt. Howie Carpluk Memorial Fund to help the family. For more information, check out the right hand side of the screen.
On Friday, firefighters from all over the area gathered for Reilly's funeral in Ramsey, New Jersey. He was eulogized by Mayor Bloomberg who called him "a hero in the real sense of the word."
Rookie Firefighter Laid to Rest Friday
A somber day for the family, friends and colleagues of New York City Firefighter Michael Reilly. Thousands of people turned out to pay their final respects to the fallen rookie today. He and Lt. Howard Carpluk Jr. died fighting a fire in the Bronx last Sunday.
Eyewitness News reporter Jen Maxfield is live in Ramsey. At noontime the mass was still underway and you could hear Mayor Bloomberg describing firefighter Reilly's strength and character. In his short life, Reilly made such an impact on so many people.
Thousands gathered today to honor his memory.
It was a solemn tribute to New York firefighter and U.S. Marine, Michael Reilly the processing made it's way through his home town.
Many remembered him as a brave and enthusiastic young man who helped as many people as possible.
It was in his blood from the time he the rescue squad department. He just took all the training he could.
Thousand of firefighters in blue-dressed uniforms stretched for at least half a mile. He was a well known member in the is close-knit Bergen County community and a role model for other teenagers.
Family Friend: "His family should be very proud. Everbody's I'm sure proud of him."
25-year-old Michael Reilly was killed while battling a fire in the Bronx on Sunday.
Rick Roman, FDNY: "He had a choice to go anywhere in New York City. He could have went to slowest house but he chose Engine 75. I think that's a testament to where he wanted to be."
Michael Reilly and four other firefighters were trapped when the floor of a burning 99-cent Store collapsed in Mount Eden on Sunday burying them waste deep in debris. Reilly and his supervisor, Lt. Howard Carpluk died as a result of their injuries.
Rick Roman, FDNY: "He took on a task and he did the best job he could do."
When Reilly was only 16-years-old he became a volunteer with the Ramsey New Jersey Rescue Department. He later joined the Marine Corps reserves and served a tour of duty in Iraq.
Reilly became a New York City firefighter just two month before he died.
James Nichols: "He served his country in Iraq and then he comes home, serves his city here in America and dies in a fire. It's hard to figure."
A wake for 43-year-old Howard Carpluk was held yesterday. The husband and father was right next to Reilly when they fell through the floor.