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Hundreds of firefighters attend William Tolley’s wake

FDNY Capt. Rich Blasi, of Ladder Company 135

FDNY Capt. Rich Blasi, of Ladder Company 135 in Ridgewood, Queens, talks about William Tolley, an NYC firefighter from Bethpage who fell to his death Thursday while fighting an apartment fire. Credit: John Roca

Hundreds of FDNY firefighters turned out again Wednesday to honor William Tolley, their veteran colleague who died last week battling a blaze in Queens.

Tolley’s death, after he fell five stories from the roof of a Ridgewood, Queens, apartment building, continues to exact a physical and emotional toll on firefighters who served with Tolley at Ladder Company 135, said firehouse Capt. Rich Blasi.

“We’re all in a bad way,” Blasi said as he stood in front of several dozen firefighters from Ladder 135 and Engine 286, which share the firehouse in Glendale, Queens, where Tolley worked. “We’re all leaning on each other.”

Neighborhood children have dropped off flowers at the firehouse, Blasi said. Adults living nearby have stopped by to offer condolences and assistance.

Engine 286 Capt. Carl Italiano described Tolley, 42, and a 14-year veteran with the FDNY, as a diligent firefighter — constantly checking his company’s rig.

“He was always on the rig, making sure it was to the standard he expected,” Italiano said at the wake at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in Bethpage, where Tolley lived with his wife Marie and daughter Isabella, 8.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived at the wake with his security detail just after 8 p.m. Wednesday. About 30 minutes later, he left without speaking to the news media. Earlier in the day, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano visited to pay his respects.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Martin of Tours Church in Bethpage.

A steady downpour dampened hundreds of mourners on Tuesday, the first day of the wake.

Firefighters, including some from Long Island departments, community residents, as well as friends and bandmates from Tolley’s other passion — playing drums in a speed metal group — rushed to line up in a tent Tuesday to get into the funeral home on Hicksville Road, which was among the streets blocked off to traffic.

Wednesday, the majority of those filing into the funeral home wore FDNY dress blues.

FDNY officials have said burning incense left unattended sparked the April 20 fire. Why Tolley fell to his death remains under investigation. Authorities believe Tolley plummeted to the sidewalk after being jolted from a raised fire truck bucket before he could put on a safety harness.

Tolley played drums in the band Internal Bleeding, which toured throughout the United States and Europe. Blasi said Tolley lived his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter and a musician. He was also a volunteer for the Make A Wish Foundation and the Wounded Warriors.

“This is not just a loss to the firehouse, to his family or his band,” Blasi said. “To this world, he had something special to offer.”

With Deon J. Hampton

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