“Michael never said no,” said Mickey McCabe, owner of McCabe Ambulance, referring to Michael Burke, 23, who died as the result of his Jeep GRC striking a stanchion of the railroad bridge on Avenue A near North Street and West 7th Street at about 12:30 a.m.
“This was a one-vehicle crash,” said Police Chief Ralph Scianni. “His vehicle was traveling northbound on Avenue A.
McCabe said Burke had worked for his service since 2011 in a variety of roles: as an EMT, a medical-disaster and CPR instructor, and other duties he was asked to do.
“He always had a smile,” McCabe recalled. “He was a really nice kid. His focal point was as an EMT.”
Scianni said when police officers arrived they found the impact had partially ejected Burke from the vehicle, but that firefighters had to extricate him from the wreckage.
The passenger, Mark Bayus, also 23, was alive, but trapped as well.
Fire Chief Greg Rogers said his personnel had to rescue him from the twisted metal. Bayus suffered head trauma and lacerations to the face, as well as broken bones, Scianni said.
“He was transported to Jersey City Medical Center,” Scianni said. “He was listed as critical in a life-threatening condition.”
The crash is currently under investigation by local and state police, who are reviewing the chip in the vehicle as well as security cameras near the bridge. Rail officials and inspectors from the city Building Department reviewed the condition of the bridge for possible structural damage.
“This was one of the most horrific accidents I have seen in all of my 34 years of service in the police department,” Scianni said. “This is a tragedy for everybody. My heart goes out to the family.”
Hundreds of colleagues, friends, family, and well-wishers stood on the walkways to St. Henry’s Church on Dec. 16, braving a chill wind as uniformed associates of Burke carried his coffin from the back of a McCabe Ambulance and up the steps for his funeral. Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs stood along the side saluting his final passage.
“He would do anything I asked him to do,” McCabe said, noting that those who responded to the accident were those who had worked side by side with Burke.
“It’s an absolute tragedy,” said Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell, who along with Mayor Mark Smith stood outside the church in the cold, watching as the men carried the coffin up the stairs. “My wife tutored him for two years when he was a kid,” O’Donnell said. “He was a really good guy.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.