FDNY, family, friends hold somber tribute after firefighter's death in Queens

FAR ROCKAWAY, Queens (WABC) -- Family, friends and fellow firefighters gathered for a somber ceremony to honor the firefighter who died this week after suffering a medical episode while on duty.

The FDNY hung bunting at the firehouse of 33-year-old Jesse Gerhard in Far Rockaway on Friday -- it was there at Ladder 134 on Central Avenue that he went into medical distress.

The members of his firehouse immediately provided emergency medical care, but Gerhard, a 7-year veteran of the department, died at St. John's Episcopal Hospital.

"We all loved him, he worked hard," colleague Carl Kretkowski said. "The guy loved being a fireman. He lived and breathed being a fireman."

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Now, Gerhard is being remembered as a gentle giant and hard worker who died doing what he loved. He was also a registered organ donor.

"Even in his death, he's helping others," Kretkowski said. "It doesn't surprise me. It doesn't surprise any of the guys here. And it shouldn't surprise you."

LiveOnNewYork President and CEO Leonard Achan said his gift of life will benefit to 50 to 75 people, just as it did with NYPD Detective Wilbert Mora.

"We are seeing families who are saying that they have seen these public servants who have made these gifts of life to honor and change and save lives," Achan said.

In fact, he said in-hospital organ donation and registration have doubled from this time last year.

"Just over the last couple of week, we've had two international family inquiries who looked to authorize and have discussions about organ and tissue donation," he said.

Gerhard had spent Tuesday afternoon battling a two-alarm house fire at 25-43 Beach Channel Drive, and he was working a 24-hour tour when he collapsed.

"Firefighter Jesse Gerhard dreamed of being a firefighter his entire life, and he lived that dream, bravely serving the residents of Queens by battling fires and rescuing New Yorkers from harm," Mayor Eric Adams said. "The heartbreaking loss of this brave young man who was so committed to saving others is a painful reminder of the dangerous and difficult work New York City Firefighters do every single day."

Gerhard joined the FDNY as an Emergency Medical Technician in July 2014 and was first assigned to Station 10 in Manhattan and later served at Station 47 in Far Rockaway.

He entered the Fire Academy in December 2017, and after graduating in April 2018, was first assigned as a Firefighter to Engine Company 264 in Far Rockaway.

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In March 2020, he transferred to Ladder Company 134, located in the same firehouse as Engine Company 264 in Far Rockaway.

He was honored for bravery once in his career, the FDNY said.

Firefighter Gerhard is the 1,156th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty.

The last member of the department to die in the line of duty was Lieutenant Joseph Maiello, who died on December 26, 2021.

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