Posts Tagged Off-duty Chicago firefighter killed in crash

Off-duty firefighter killed in crash

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A Chicago firefighter was among two people killed when police say the car he was traveling in collided with another vehicle on Interstate 57.  According to Illinois State Police, 55-year-old Brian Schofield, of Chicago, was killed in the two-car crash that also left another driver dead. 

The accident happened when a Hyundai sedan collided with a Jeep head-on near 183rd Street. A preliminary investigation showed the Hyundai was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes at the time. The Hyundai struck a guardrail at a high-rate of speed and became engulfed in flames. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police noted that seatbelts were not used during the crash.

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Off-duty Chicago firefighter killed in crash

Excerpts from the

When Timothy John O’Leary was about 18, he was a passenger in a car that crashed in Lake Geneva, Wis. He was so impressed by the way firefighters worked on his broken leg, he decided to become one, and eventually joined the Chicago Fire Department. Years later and about 25 miles away from Lake Geneva, it was another crash that claimed his life.

“He was my best friend and my love. We had made future plans together. He was going to retire in a year, but now it’s over,” his wife, Laura Bundy-O’Leary, said by telephone Friday afternoon.

O’Leary, 54, was driving a Toyota SUV south on Interstate 43 near Wisconsin Route 140 around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday when he hit the back of a semi-truck near an overpass for Route 140, police said. Firefighters found the SUV wedged under the back of the truck. “It had impacted quite violently into the back of the trailer.” The rear window was blown out so a paramedic jumped through it to help O’Leary as crews cut open the driver’s side door and pulled him from the van.

“As soon as we got him out of the vehicle, he was on a backboard, on a stretcher and in an ambulance in less than a minute,” London said. He was taken to Beloit Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:18 p.m. Tuesday, according to Barry Irmen, a spokesman for the Rock County medical examiner’s office.

O’Leary and his wife had spent the day installing shelving in a home they own in Wisconsin. He jumped in his SUV to make a quick run to a storage locker, saying he’d be home in time for dinner. But when he didn’t come back right away, Bundy-O’Leary assumed he’d probably gone back to their Chicago home, where new windows were due to be installed the next morning.

When it got later and later and he wasn’t returning calls or texts, she went looking for him at 2 a.m. Bundy-O’Leary tried to retrace his steps and then had an eerie premonition.

“I called hospitals, I called police, I even called jails,” Bundy-O’Leary said. “I tried to follow his steps. And then I said ‘I think he’s dead.'” Soon after that, her stepson called to confirm her worst fears: Wisconsin state police officers had arrived at his home on the Northwest Side home with the bad news.

O’Leary, who had five siblings and grew up on the Northwest Side, came from an Irish family, his wife said. He has three children and two stepchildren, who are hers. His son John followed in his footsteps in a two-year paramedic program at Loyola University Medical Center and hopes to become a firefighter someday. For now, he is in the police academy, Bundy-O’Leary said.

“For 32 years he served Chicago. He even had babies named after him after he delivered them or found them in garbage cans,” Bundy-O’Leary said.  “He was so well-loved. He would give you the shirt off your back and the skin if you needed it,” Bundy-O’Leary said. “He made me laugh, and he had beautiful eyes.”

O’Leary was with the Chicago Fire Department for nearly 30 years and most recently worked with Engine 125’s Capt. Sam Kamberis, who remembered O’Leary as a “very dedicated firefighter.”

Visitation for O’Leary is slated for 3 to 9 p.m. Monday at Cumberland Chapels, 8300 W. Lawrence Ave., according to the Chicago Fire Department. Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Eugene Parish, 7958 W. Foster Ave.

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