Joseph Paul DiBernardo Jr., a longtime Stony Brook resident who was one of the six FDNY firefighters trapped in the fatal "Black Sunday" fire in 2005, died Nov. 22 at his Miller Place home at the age of 40.
"Joey D" DiBernardo, who was a volunteer firefighter for Setauket Fire Department before he joined the FDNY in 1995, was a firefighter with Rescue 3 in the Bronx, which responded to the apartment building fire on Jan. 23, 2005 that would become known as the "Black Sunday" fire.
According to a memorial written by his Setauket colleagues, DiBernardo was one of six firefighters trapped between illegal partitions inside a fourth-floor apartment during that blaze. He held a rope as another firefighter rappeled down the building, but after he tried securing the rope for his own climb down, it gave out and he fell about four stories. He landed on his feet but shattered every bone below his waist, spending 18 days in a coma and requiring 20 hours of surgery on his legs – injuries which still caused him pain, said colleague and close friend, Kevin Yoos.
"Joey was a true fireman," Yoos said. "He really inspired people. ... He gave 100 percent. He pushed guys. He took people under his wing and wanted them to be the best."
DiBernardo retired from the FDNY in 2006.
While with the Setauket Fire Department, DiBernardo was instrumental in helping to form the department's Technical Rescue Team. Yoos said DiBernardo even coined the phrase "West End Truck," the nickname for Setauket FD's Station 3 on Nicolls Road.
"The fire department was his life, whether it was Setauket or FDNY," Yoos said. "He worked very hard. He always wanted to be that guy who could help."
Results of an autopsy are still pending.
DiBernardo is survived by his father, Joseph DiBernardo Sr.; mother, Barbara; sister Carolyn and brother-in-law Gino; and his niece Gabriella.
A funeral mass is set for Monday at 11 a.m. at St. James RC Church, with interment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetary in Coram to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, 21 Asch Loop, Bronx, New York 10475.