A New Haven firefighter was killed in a crash in New Britain early Thursday morning, the day after he turned 37 years old.
Police officers and firefighters responded to the area of Black Rock Avenue, just east of Warren Street, for a report of a motor vehicle that hit a utility pole at 1:16 a.m.
Jeffrey K. O'Neil was the only passenger in the car and New Britain EMS personnel pronounced him dead at the scene, police said.
“Firefighter O’Neil showed himself to be a dedicated fire safety professional, a quick study in fire science, and a well-liked, highly regarded member of Engine Company 17 at the East Grand fire station – his presence will be sorely missed” New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire New Haven Fire Department I extend condolences to his family, with an assurance his well-deserved place in this department will not soon be forgotten.”
Frank Ricci, a battalion chief and union president for the New Haven firefighters, said O'Neil worked for the New Haven Fire Department for two years and he was assigned to engine company 17, previously of truck 2 and engine company 11.
O'Neil was a federal law enforcement agent for 10 years and left to fulfill his dream of becoming a firefighter, Ricci said.
O'Neil will be remembered as a heroic firefighter, but also as a man who brought levity to any situation, Ricci said.
The union is working with the fire chief's office to offer grief counseling to members of the fire department, Ricci said.
"Today we have a tear in our heart, but hopefully one day that will be a smile for the legacy of service that Jeffrey O'Neil brought to the city of New Haven and the citizens of the United States," Ricci said.
New Haven firefighters are holding a fundraiser at Trinity Bar in New Haven on Sunday, Feb. 12, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., to help with the funeral costs.
Police said the 37-year-old Hartford man who was driving when the crash happened was transported from the scene to a local hospital and his injuries are not life-threatening.
No charges have been filed in the crash and the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information or who witnessed the crash is asked to call Sergeant Steven King at (860) 826-3071.