A Brooklyn firefighter broke his back when his firetruck plunged into a sinkhole that area residents say has been a recurring problem for years that the city has failed to properly fix.
Lt. Brendan Connolly, 41, of Engine Co. 236 was hospitalized after the rig he was in struck the 10-by-10-foot crater at Chestnut and Etna streets in Cypress Hills at about 10 a.m. on Aug. 1 while responding to a medical call.
The jolt left him with a broken vertebra, a relative said. He needs a back brace and cane to walk and faces a long rehab, with his return to the job in question.
Antonio Torres, 78, said he was sitting outside his Etna Street home when he heard a boom and saw the firetruck screech to a halt. Chaos ensued as several other firetrucks arrived, and firefighters loaded Connolly onto a board.
Another witness, Lissette Martinez, recalled the horrifying scene.
“We thought the firefighter died,” said Martinez, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1993. “It’s really sad that this poor firefighter had to go through this because of this sinkhole.
“Until they really fix it the right way, it’s going to happen again.”
A second firefighter was also injured in the accident, FDNY officials said. Both men were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Connolly was discharged from the hospital Aug. 3.
Neighbors, meanwhile, called the sinkhole an accident waiting to happen.
“It was damaged before, and they fixed it, but they did a bad job,” one resident fumed.
Martinez said: “This is outrageous. It could have been anybody — kids crossing the street, kids on a bike.”
Two days after the crash, the city Department of Environmental Protection, which checked water and sewer pipes, filled the hole, which it called a “roadway depression.”
“If it wasn’t because of what happened, it would have never been fixed,” Martinez said.
“It looks like it’s starting to open up again.”
Members of Engine Co. 236 declined to discuss the crash — except for one, who said he wasn’t surprised.
“Have you ever seen the roads around here?” he said.
Jake Lemonda, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, noted that responding to any emergency can be dangerous for firefighters.
“Oftentimes, they cannot foresee the dangers that lie ahead of them — including sinkholes,” Lemonda said.