Joseph Zadroga, the father of an NYPD detective whose death...

Joseph Zadroga, the father of an NYPD detective whose death in 2006 led to the creation of federal legislation compensating first responders and others sickened at Ground Zero. Credit: Charles Eckert

Joseph Zadroga, the father of an NYPD cop whose death from illness due to his time working at Ground Zero led to a massive compensation package for first responders and others sickened after the 9/11 attacks, was struck and killed Saturday in the parking lot of a New Jersey hospital where he had been visiting his wife, according to family members and the police.

Zadroga, 76, of Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, had just left his wife's bedside at a hospital in Galloway Township to get Christmas presents from his 2015 Hyundai Tucson when he was hit about 2 p.m. in the parking lot by a 2021 Nissan SUV driven by James McNeal, 82, of Absecon, New Jersey, Galloway police said in a statement.

“As McNeal was pulling into his parking space,” the statement said, “he accelerated, struck the Hyundai, and then struck Zadroga, who was subsequently pinned underneath the Nissan."

Zadroga was eventually pulled from beneath the SUV and taken to the hospital's emergency room, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

His son, James, who was 34 when he died in 2006, was the first NYPD detective whose death was linked to work at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Legislation created in his name, the $4.3-billion dollar James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, was initially approved by Congress in 2010. The act was renewed for good in 2015 with $8.1 million more in funding.

Zadroga's other son, Joseph, 56, said that Sunday would have been his parents' 57th wedding anniversary. His mother, Linda, has been hospitalized with circulatory problems and the family had been unable to celebrate a traditional Christmas, the younger Zadroga told Newsday in an interview.

Joseph Zadroga Jr. said before his father was hit, the two had gone down to the hospital's parking lot to retrieve Christmas gifts for an impromptu holiday celebration at his mother's bedside.

“She was expecting [Zadroga Sr.] to come back up,” he said. “I came up instead.”

Zadroga Jr. told his mother what had happened.

“She was in disbelief,” said Zadroga Jr., who witnessed his father getting hit.

Galloway Township police said an investigation is ongoing.

“I'm very angry,” Zadroga Jr. said of his father's death. “This was a senseless accident.”

In 2010, after Republican senators initially blocked legislation that would eventually bear his son James' name, Joseph Zadroga Sr. spoke about his frustrations over the delays.

“Everybody says they feel for you and they understand, and then when it comes time to step to the plate and come forward, they vote no and disregard what you say,” he told Newsday at the time.

A few days later, after Democratic sponsors said they had lined up the support needed for passage, Zadroga was in the holiday spirit.

“It would be a nice Christmas present,” he said. “These first responders are all still suffering out there.”

John Feal, the leader of the Nesconset-based FealGood Foundation that advocates for Ground Zero first responders, wrote of Zadroga's death in a message he posted Sunday on social media: “Friends — the 9/11 community lost a giant … we mourn with the Zadroga family during this difficult time.”

With Matthew Chayes

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