Former fire chief, first responder laid to rest


| tcullen@queenscourier.com |



Funeral services were held for a 9/11 first responder and former chief of the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department & Ambulance Corps.

Former Chief John Velotti passed away on Thursday, August 30 after a battle with lung cancer.

Velotti is survived by a daughter, Tara McCarthy, and companion Joanne M. Karl, according to his obituary in Newsday. He was buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Wading River, Suffolk County.

Although Velotti had relocated further east in his final years, he made Howard Beach his home, said current Hamilton Beach chief Joseph M. Vasquezaldana.

Velotti came to the station when Vasquezaldana’s father was chief, and he soon became a family friend. After some time serving in Hamilton Beach, Vasquezaldana said Velotti eventually developed a love of the community and moved there.

Like many other, the two-time chief responded to Ground Zero on 9/11 and spent many hours working in the rubble, Vasquesaldana said. It is not sure if Velotti developed cancer from the toxins at the site, but the current chief said many others had in the past.

Of the more than 12,000 who responded, nearly 300 police officers have been diagnosed with cancer since the tragedy, according to a 2011 Huffington Post article. Congress signed into effect the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2011 to provide health care relief to first responders who developed illnesses from Ground Zero.

The weight of the tragedy, regardless, is being felt at firehouses throughout the city, Vasquezaldana said.

“This is the second chief we’re burying because of a 9/11 illness.”