On Sunday, William Koehler, a West Athens Limestreet volunteer firefighter, was tragically killed in a one-vehicle accident.
Compounding the tragedy is that the 43-year-old Koehler, who had only two years of service with the fire department, did not die in the line of duty. Not exactly. He died for the love of his family.
At the time of the crash, Koehler was driving to his mother’s home after he received word that she was having a heart attack, West Athens Limestreet Fire Chief Tim Farrell said.
It is unclear whether Koehler knew CPR and was racing to the home to attempt to save his mom’s life or whether he simply wanted to be at her side in the event the end came.
Koehler was driving his pick-up truck on Potic Mountain Road when he lost control of the truck and struck a tree, according to police. An investigation by the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and state police indicates excessive speed was a factor in the crash. That should in no way diminish what Koehler was trying to do at that moment.
Today, firefighters from Greene and Columbia counties are mourning the loss of a brother as are members of Koehler’s family and his friends. Hundreds of condolences were posted the past few days on Greene County Fire Department Facebook pages. Fire companies from up and down the Hudson Valley have been reaching out to Farrell to offer anything they can do to help.
In a photo of Koehler in full gear, his bespectacled face is visible through his open visor, smiling, covered by a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. It’s the face of a man who loved life and loved his life as a firefighter. He has done his department proud. We can’t lose focus on the big picture: William Koehler is a true hero. He should be remembered that way.