3 retired NYC firefighters die of 9/11-related illnesses on same day

Posted at 6:54 AM, Sep 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-26 10:10:52-04

(CNN) — Three retiree firefighters from the FDNY died this week from illnesses believed related to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Daniel Heglund, Robert Leaver and Howard Bischoff, who suffered from cancer, died Monday within hours of each other, reported CNN affiliate NY1.

“Losing three firefighters on the same day to WTC-related illnesses is a painful reminder that, 13 years later, we continue to pay a terrible price for the Department’s heroic efforts on September 11th, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.

Ninety-two firefighters have died of illnesses related to the 9/11 attacks and hundreds of firefighters and ambulance workers suffer from respiratory problems, NY1 reported.

All three men rushed to the World Trade Center site on the day of the attacks. They all retired in 2003.

Heglund was a firefighter from Rescue 4 in the Woodside section of Queens and had spent 21 years on the job, NY1 reported. Leaver was a member of Engine 202 in Red Hook and served 20 years. Bischoff was a fire officer for 19 years and served with Ladder 149 in Dyker Heights.

News of the three deaths comes as advocates seek reauthorization of a program to provide health services to people with 9/11-related health problems at least through 2015. President Barack Obama signed the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act into law in 2011.

“I’m asking [leaders in Washington] to be as brave as the people who responded on that day,” FDNY Union-Uniformed Fire Officers Association President James Lemonda said at a press conference. “This is not just a firefighter issue. This is an American issue.”

Government reports suggest workers at the World Trade Center were exposed to a number of chemicals that were known to be carcinogens, or agents that may cause cancer.

Cancer is plaguing a growing number of first responders and rescuers who worked at ground zero after the terrorist attack. These are cancers the federal government says are thought to be directly related to that effort — cancers like leukemia, myeloma, thyroid and prostate cancers.

At the end of July, there were at least 1,646 certified cancer cases that have been documented by Mount Sinai Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health. There were some additional 863 cancer cases among both fire and EMS personnel, according to FDNY, which keeps a separate database for its members.