BRAVEST, FINEST - SAFEST After tragic 2001, a much-needed respite in '02

Copyright 2003 Daily News, L.P.
Daily News (New York)...01/01/2003

By MICHELE McPHEE DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF

After their devastating losses of the year before, 2002 was one of the safest years on record for city firefighters and police.

Not a single firefighter died in the line of duty last year - the first time in five years the Bravest made it through without a fatality, according to the FDNY.

Though the NYPD buried two of its own, no officer died as a result of violence on the job, police said.

"Coming after a year when so many were lost, I am grateful that nearly every one of our uniformed service members have been able to come home to their families," Mayor Bloomberg told the Daily News.

"Our firefighters, police officers and emergency service workers risk their lives every day for the rest of us and far too many times make the ultimate sacrifice."

The good news came after a horrendous year in which 343 members of the FDNY and 23 NYPD cops perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Victim of drunken driver

Before Sept. 11, the FDNY already had lost six firefighters last year, including three who died in a Father's Day explosion in Queens. The Fire Department did bury one member this year: Emergency Medical Service technician Andre Lahens, a 25-year veteran who died in April after his ambulance was struck by an allegedly drunken driver in Brooklyn. An EMS technician also was killed in the terror attacks.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said the loss of Lahens "was a terrible tragedy," but he said he was grateful that he did not have to comfort any other families this year.

In its 138-year history, 1,119 firefighters have died in the line of duty, an average of more than eight per year.

"We feel blessed that no firefighter died on the job this year, especially after the unimaginable losses the department suffered in 2001," Scoppetta said.

The NYPD also did not finish the year unscathed.

One police officer died of a brain aneurysm on the job. On Aug. 23, Officer Disdale Enton of the 113th Precinct in Queens collapsed as he chased a suspect in Jamaica.

Killed on Easter

An off-duty detective died in a domestic dispute. Bronx narcotics Detective Jaime Betancourt was fatally stabbed in the chest Easter morning when he interceded in an argument between his girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend.

"After suffering such a terrible loss of life in 2001, we're grateful that the number of line-of-duty deaths fell in 2002," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "Our hearts go out to the families of the two officers we lost."