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Assistant Chief of FDNY EMS dies of 9/11 illness

FDNY Engine 44. (Mick Chester/Flickr)

FDNY EMS Assistant Chief Alvin Suriel, a lifelong lifesaver who helped oversee the department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic died Tuesday following a short battle with an aggressive 9/11 cancer, the FDNY said. He was 52.

Suriel was a 32-year veteran of EMS, joining as an emergency medical technician in 1989, before the agency’s merger with the FDNY.

Quickly moving up the ranks, Suriel was promoted to assistant chief in 2019 and served as the department’s chief of field operations, where he helped supervise 4,600 EMTs, paramedics, EMS officers, and civilian employees.

Suriel was instrumental in developing an active member peer support group to address the mental health needs of EMTs and paramedics during the pandemic, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“He saved an untold number of lives in his time as an EMT and paramedic, and through his inspirational leadership in our bureau of EMS,” Nigro said Tuesday. “He was there for New Yorkers on Sept. 11, he was instrumental in our department’s extraordinary response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he administered outstanding care to every single patient who ever called for his help.

“His dedication to duty was immeasurable, and his loss is a painful blow to our entire Department,” Nigro said.

Suriel was diagnosed with a 9/11 cancer just weeks before his death, FDNY sources said. He’s the 264th FDNY member to die from a Ground Zero related illness.

After graduating from the EMS Training Academy, Suriel was first assigned to help people in Harlem.

“[It] actually started as a summer job. I loved it,” Suriel said in a recent FDNY podcast. “In 1993 I upgraded as a paramedic. I decided to become an officer in 2005. Since then, slowly but surely, I have been climbing the ranks to where I am now.

My primary responsibility is that of overseeing field operations We all support what I feel is the backbone of this department, which is our EMTs, paramedics and officers.”

On 9/11, Suriel joined a convoy of EMTs and paramedics who raced to the World Trade Center from the EMS Academy at Fort Totten in Queens. He spent several days at Ground Zero following the terror attacks, assisting in rescue and recovery efforts.

Suriel is survived by his wife and two daughters. Funeral arrangements were pending.


© 2021 New York Daily News

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