Flemish fireman dies in New York boating accident

Flemish fireman dies in New York boating accident
Johnny Beernaert in his fireman gear. Credit: Fire Observers Belgium VZW

A 53-year-old fireman from Diksmuide in West Flanders has died following a collision between two boats on the East River in New York City, where he was visiting colleagues.

Johnny Beernaert was on a private visit to colleagues in the New York fire department (FDNY) They took him on a boat trip on the river, where their boat was in collision with a pleasure craft carrying tourists. The accident took place at around 22.00on Friday evening, local time.

Beernaert was injured in the collision, and died later in hospital of his wounds. One other fire officer and three civilians were also injured, but not seriously. Beernaert’s wife, who was travelling with him, was among the injured.

Since the news of the accident crossed the Atlantic, Beernaert’s colleagues at the Diksmuide fire station have been posting messages and photos on social media.

“It is with great disbelief and great sadness that we inform you of the death of Sergeant Johnny Beernaert,” reads one message. “Our station has lost a valued and wonderful, ever-sympathetic officer. We’re going to miss you, mate.”

Beernaert had already escaped death once, back in 2009, when he narrowly escaped a major fire in Diksmuide. He was caught up in an explosion and seriously injured, but made a full recovery and was able to return to work.

“Johnny knew all too well that he had had a narrow escape,” said station commander Filip Vandenberghe. “Since then, he has enjoyed life to the fullest”.

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