3 Ground Zero Firefighters Die on Same Day

NEW YORK (AP) -
From left, Lt. Howard Bischoff and firefighters Daniel Heglund and Robert Leaver. (AP Photo/FDNY)
From left, Lt. Howard Bischoff and firefighters Daniel Heglund and Robert Leaver. (AP Photo/FDNY)

Three retired firefighters who worked at ground zero have died on the same day from cancer, an illness that many fear might be connected to toxic World Trade Center dust released on Sept. 11.

Lt. Howard Bischoff, 58, and firefighters Robert Leaver, 56, and Daniel Heglund, 58, died within hours of one another last week Monday.

Their deaths are “a painful reminder that 13 years later we continue to pay a terrible price for the department’s heroic efforts,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.

Hundreds of first responders have gotten cancer in the 13 years since the attacks, but doctors and researchers are still uncertain whether there is any link between those illnesses and 9/11. Cancer is also the leading cause of death for Americans in their mid-40s to mid-60s.

The Fire Department lost 343 firefighters on 9/11. It maintains a memorial to 89 other firefighters it believes died of illnesses. That tally doesn’t yet include Bischoff, Leaver or Heglund.