Honoring the fallen heroes of Oceanside

OFD remembers eight who died on the job

The Oceanside Fire Department hosted a special street dedication ceremony last Sunday to honor the eight members of the department who died in the line of duty. Above, members of Salamander Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company No. 1 with Tara Lane, center, the daughter of the late Keith Lane, who died in 2016.
The Oceanside Fire Department hosted a special street dedication ceremony last Sunday to honor the eight members of the department who died in the line of duty. Above, members of Salamander Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company No. 1 with Tara Lane, center, the daughter of the late Keith Lane, who died in 2016.
Courtesy Kevin Madigan

About 200 residents gathered outside Oceanside Fire Department headquarters on Foxhurst Road last Sunday to honor the memory of eight firefighters who died in the line of duty at a special street dedication ceremony.

The honorees were Thomas Staab, Vincent “Bink” Herbert, Dominic “Bubba” Lagudi Jr., Joseph Jarvis Sr., Anthony Zito, William Koerner, Stephen Wade and Keith Lane. Family members and former colleagues of the honorees spoke about what they meant to the department and the kind of people they were.

Lane died most recently, succumbing to a medical emergency shortly after responding to a car accident on Aug. 27, 2016. Speaking on his behalf, Capt. William Sitzman of Salamander Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company No. 1, said Lane was well liked in the department and worked for many causes that involved firefighters, police officers and other first responders.

“Keith is missed,” Sitzman said. “Not only by his family, friends and colleagues, but by everyone who met him. He was the type of person that left a lasting impression with you, even if you only met him for a moment.”

Lane served 14 years in the East Rockaway Fire Department, and then moved to Oceanside and joined its department in September 1995. He spent 21 years volunteering for the department while also working as a cameraman for Fox 5. He won an Emmy for his coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sunday’s ceremony was hosted by the Oceanside F.D. in conjunction with Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, who volunteers for the Island Park Fire Department.

Speaking on behalf of his brother Stephen, who died on June 5, 1986, at age 23, William Wade said the impact of his loss is still felt.

“Back on June 13, I had posted on social media that it had been 11,680 days since we last said our goodbyes to Steve,” William said. “Add about 150 days or so to that, and this journey of life continues without him with us. This journey is the same for all of the families here who have lost a loved one. My heart goes out to all of you.”

Stephen died after he fell from a 25-foot ladder while training at Oceanside’s Fireman’s Field. He was born in Queens on March 8, 1963, and grew up in Rockville Centre. His oldest brother, George, was a volunteer for the Rockville Centre Fire Department, which inspired Stephen to become a firefighter. He joined South Side Hose Company No. 2 in November 1982 and the Oceanside department in January 1983.

While serving in Rockville Centre, Stephen helped revive the South Side Mariners tournament team, which competed against other fire departments, and served on many committees in the hope of becoming an officer. He also worked as a mason in New York City.

All eight men who were honored had their names read during the ceremony. “The Oceanside Fire Department would like to thank the Town of Hempstead, in particular Councilman Anthony D’Esposito and his staff, for making this event possible,” OFD member Bill Lynch said.

Jarvis, a 31-year member of Columbia Engine Company No. 1, died on May 19, 1994, after being struck by a vehicle about three weeks earlier. He had responded to an accident scene that April 29, after the driver of a pickup truck was killed when a westbound train hit the vehicle. Jarvis was stationed at the intersection of Lawson Boulevard and Weidner Avenue to direct and assist fire, police and emergency personnel when a car that was headed south on Lawson struck him. He was rushed to South Nassau Communities Hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery. Though he seemed to be improving, he eventually succumbed to his injuries, at age 54. He is survived by his wife, Judy; his son, Joseph Jr.; and his daughter, Donna.

Lagudi was just eight hours from being sworn in as the second assistant chief of the OFD when he died at age 33 on April 12, 1989. Lagudi, who served in the department for 14 years, entered a burning building on Long Beach Road and rescued a woman who lived there. As flames shot 15 feet into the air, he helped the woman down a staircase of the two-story dwelling and returned to the building to fight the fire, but died of smoke inhalation.

Lagudi, known affectionately as “Bubba,” was an Oceanside High School graduate and played on the football team. He joined the department at age 19, following in the footsteps of his father, Dominic Sr. He studied hotel and restaurant management at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. After graduating from college in 1975, he worked as a cook for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department for nine years, and then started a restaurant business in Queens, where he worked until his death. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Oceanside Volunteer and Exempt Fireman’s Benevolent Association, and is remembered for dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmastime to entertain children. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, his son, Dominic III. and his daughter, Courtney.

Koerner, a former captain of the department, died on March 31, 1977, at age 71, as a result of injuries he sustained when his vehicle collided with another firefighter’s vehicle while both were responding to a fire on Roosevelt Street in Oceanside. He was ejected from the vehicle at the intersection of Montgomery and Lawrence avenues, and died after being transported to South Nassau. In addition to serving the OFD, he lived in Queens and worked for the New York City Department of Sanitation. Koerner founded the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department in the 1940s, and served as captain of Oceanside Hose Company No. 1 in 1967. He founded the OFD Ex-Captains Association in 1970 ,and was president of the Oceanside Exempts and Benevolent Association from 1968 to 1970.

OFD members Zito, Herbert and Staab each died of cardiac arrest while responding to emergencies.

Zito died on Nov. 24, 1967, while responding to a fire at the former Good Humor ice cream plant on Long Beach Road. He was 67, and a 15-year veteran of Terrace Hose Company No. 3. He was directing an apparatus to the scene of the fire when he collapsed on the street.

Herbert, a 17-year veteran of Columbia Engine Co. No. 1, died on April 29, 1962, while responding to a mutual aid call from the Baldwin Fire Department at a two-story Venetian blind factory. Known affectionately as “Bink,” Herbert was stretching hose from a fire engine when he collapsed. He was a carpenter by trade, and served as president of the South Shore Volunteer Fireman’s Association. He is survived by his wife, Bertha.

Staab, a former chief, died on Dec. 7, 1958, while responding to a house fire in Ocean-side. He was a resident of Oceanside for 40 years and an active member of Columbia Engine Company No. 1 for 23 years after being sworn in on Aug. 23, 1935. A former employee of the Oceanside School District, Staab is survived by his wife, Loretta and daughter, Patricia.

“As a former chief and 42-year active firefighter, I believe the street dedication ceremony was one of the Oceanside Fire Department’s greatest moments,” Lynch said. “I’m proud to be an Oceanside firefighter and proud of these eight heroes and their legacy.