A Malverne volunteer firefighter killed over the weekend while hunting upstate was shot to death by a close friend who at one time worked alongside him at the department, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Malverne Fire Department spokesman Dave Gildea said Charles Bruce, a 52-year-old Franklin Square resident who authorities said was shot and killed Saturday, was with a group that included other members of the department.

"There were a bunch of guys, some Fire Department, some not. It was not a Fire Department event," Gildea said.

Gildea declined to identify the friend.

Bruce was killed by a single shot to the chest about 10:20 a.m. Saturday in a wooded area near Steve Braun Road in the town of Westford, the Otsego County district attorney, John Muehl, said.

Bruce was a divorced father of two who had been an active volunteer with the Malverne Fire Department for 17 years.

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The shooting of Bruce "appears to be accidental at this time," the prosecutor said.

Neither the prosecutor not state police investigators would identify the other members of the hunting party.

Muehl said that when he gets the case file from State Police investigators, "I'll review it and decide whether there's evidence to put to a grand jury. I won't know until I get the file from the State Police."

He said there were four people in the hunting party and the fatal shooting occurred about 10 minutes after the youngest member of the party had shot a doe. He said there was no connection between the two shootings.

Bruce "was walking through the woods at the time and the shooter was in a tree," Muehl said. He said the shooter used a .44-caliber rifle "big round."

Muehl said the property was privately owned, possibly by one of the members of the hunting party, and they were legally on the property.

The Fire Department issued a statement mourning "the loss of our friend and Brother Firefighter Charlie Bruce."

"Charlie was a true friend, great firefighter and all around wonderful person. Charlie loved spending time with his friends and family and serving his community as a fireman. He lived an extremely active life and shared so much of himself with the members of the Malverne Fire Department and with all of his friends from several walks of life. We will miss him terribly," the statement said.

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With Candice Ruud