Firefighters Richard Driscoll and Kevin Nolan both died this week of illnesses linked to the World Trade Center attacks

By Rachel DeSantis
July 19, 2019 09:21 AM
Fire Department of New York

Two retired New York firefighters died this week of illnesses related to the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, bringing the department’s victim count to a total of 200 people as the fight to renew funding for their health care continues.

Richard Driscoll, 73, succumbed Wednesday to a 9/11-linked illness, making him the 200th member of the FDNY to do so since the twin towers fell 18 years ago, the department said.

Driscoll spent 32 years with Engine 91 in East Harlem before retiring in 2002, having been cited for bravery five times during his career.

The FDNY said Driscoll, a Vietnam War veteran, “bravely responded” to the attacks on 9/11, and “worked tirelessly in the rescue and recovery efforts that followed.”

“It is almost incomprehensible that after losing 343 members on September 11, we have now had 200 more FDNY members die due to World Trade Center illness,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “These heroes gave their lives bravely fighting to rescue and recover others. We will never forget them.”

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His death came just one day after the death of Kevin Nolan, a nearly 20-year veteran of Engine 79 in the Bronx.

Nolan, 58, died Tuesday of cancer stemming from 9/11-related injuries, the FDNY said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio paid tribute to the fallen laddermen on Twitter, and called for a renewed push to pass the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

“Rest in peace, firefighters Richard Driscoll and Kevin Nolan. 200 members of the FDNY have now succumbed to WTC-related illness,” de Blasio wrote. “They didn’t hesitate to run into danger. They stayed until the work was done. The Senate MUST fully fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”

The deaths come amid a fight to reauthorize funding for the VCF, which would help pay for the health care of responders and survivors, many of whom have developed various diseases due to their exposure to carcinogens like jet fuel, mercury and asbestos.

The bill, which has already passed the House of Representatives, was blocked this week by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who argued it was too expensive.

Luis Alvarez and Jon Stewart
Zach Gibson/Getty

He later said on Twitter he did not object to the bill itself, but wanted to ensure there was at least debate on how it should be funded.

The Washington Post reported Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, added a hold as well, though his office told the paper his concern was about oversight of the new money.

If passed into law, the bill would secure funding for the VCF through 2092. It would cost about $10.2 billion in further payments over a decade, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, according to the Associated Press.

Fund officials have said the fund is running out of money more quickly than expected given the increasing number of claims from Sept. 11 survivors, responders and their families.

Estimates put the number of 9/11 first responders at 90,000, according to the New York Daily News. There were also an additional 400,000 more survivors who lived and worked nearby, and are therefore at risk as well.