Firefighter Steven Pollard of Ladder 170 fell off the Mill Basin Bridge on the Belt Parkway to his death one year ago Tuesday, Jan. 7, while helping crash victims on the highway.
After a year of pain for his family and colleagues, Pollard’s service was celebrated Monday with the dedication of a memorial plaque at the Canarsie firehouse where he served.
Many in attendance remembered Pollard as a quiet worker who dedicated himself into becoming a better firefighter. The fun-loving Marine Park resident, from a proud firefighting family, was also regarded as an avid fisherman and lover of sports who was also devoted to his girlfriend, Brianna Turkel.
“He loved fishing and would go every chance he could go,” said his brother, Ray Pollard Jr., a firefighter in Ladder 102 after viewing his photo in the highly crafted memorial. “He was the kind of guy who can catch a fish in a swimming pool.”
Pollard’s family toured Ladder 170 on Monday, proudly observing the many reminders of his life and memorials to his dedication. The most striking memorial was built of red brick, white concrete framing and red cornice, encased with a mahogany and a well lit window. Inside was his turnout coat, helmet, and two pictures – one of him in a suit at a party, the other holding a 37 pound stripe bass he caught near the Verrazano Bridge.
Ray Pollard Jr. joined his parents, Janet and his father Ray Pollard Sr. a firefighter for 32 years from Ladder 114 and other family members. Steven’s girlfriend Brianna joined them next to the plaque unveiling, wiping a tear while listening to the Fire Department Pipes and Drums.
Monsignor John Delendick blessed the plaque and recalled being there 20 years earlier, when three firefighters from the same house were killed in a high-rise fire flash-over in Starrett City.
Pollard’s good friend, Timmy Klein, remembered sharing an occasional Budweiser with his friend. But he more fondly called the fallen firefighter “Captain America – a silent hero,” who he said was a “gentle giant” and “an officers dream.”
“He may have only been with us for a year and a half, but he left a lasting impression on everyone here in Canarsie,” Klein recalled. “It may not have been through his words, as we all know he was a man of few, but more importantly by how he carried himself and his willingness to learn on the job.”
Captain James Quinn remembered Firefighter Pollard said “there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Steven.”
Quinn remembered that fateful day when Pollard slipped between the gap in the bridge that divided the Belt Parkway.
“I know I can’t go back but he and his family will forever be in my heart,” Quinn said. “He was very quiet, he wouldn’t have much to say even during drills, he would every once in a while, give you a little nod or give you a great smile. Sometime around the holidays, he started talking about his girlfriend – he just lit up. He didn’t say much about anything, but he loved Brianna, and we were really happy for him.”
Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro said Pollard, who excelled at the academy, was “born to be a firefighter.”
“He was a brave young man who was living a life of service,” Nigro said. “He knew he could make a difference in his community – this was a job he was born to do. It was a job he loved because protecting life and property was in his DNA – following in the footsteps of his father and brother – a dream he had since he was a boy.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Pollard for his dedication to the city that he loved and pledged the city would be there for the family always.
“He would meet a stranger and be there in their moment of need, reach out and be their savior, that’s who he was,” de Blasio said. “Not only did he have physical strength – Captain America as they called him – [he had] personal human strength to put himself forward for others.”
A large contingent of NYPD highway officers were also on hand to honor Pollard, some of whom were there the night he fell from the highway, a stones throw from their stationhouse.
“We were there that day, the next day and anytime they need us,” said Inspector Steven D’Ulisse, commanding officer of Highway 2.
Gerard Trigria, a life-long friend of Pollard in Marine Park where they grew up, said, “if he wasn’t fighting fires, he was out fishing.” He said they used to fish off Breezy Point, sometimes near Kennedy’s pier, wrecked by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“I went with him a few times, but him and his buddy would go all the time,” Trigria said. “He was a great guy and fun to be with.”
Since Pollard’s death, when firefighters go out to a crash on the Belt Parkway at the Mill Basin Bridge, they receive a verbal warning from dispatchers warning of the gap that took Pollard’s life. Despite the Department of Transportation exploring options to make the gap safer, no changes to the bridge were ever made.