Firefighter's Death Classified as “In the Line of Duty”

Firefighter collapses while walking dog, dies a month later.

Lt. Stephen M. Cospelich collapsed while walking his dog and later died last month. Now, officials have ruled that the firefighter died in the line of duty, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said Wednesday.

Shortly after fighting a stressful fire, Cospelich collapsed while on a walk with his dog April 17. He was rushed to a hospital, but never regained consciousness and died May 20 at the age of 56.

“He loved fighting fires,” said his wife Nancy Riley. “He loved saving people’s lives."

Cospelich, also known as “Big Steve”, got his nickname because he was six feet, five inches tall and weighed 250 pounds.

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“He was very strong, very handsome,” said Riley. “He was very helpful to people. Anyone whoever needed help, Steve was there. He never turned anybody down."

The department will observe 30 days of mourning including putting blunt bunting on all fire stations, Chief Daniel Williams said.

Cospelich was born in Philadelphia and was a 1970 graduate of Germantown High School.

The plan is posthumously elevate Cospelich to captain sometime next month, said Williams.

Lt. Cospelich is survived by his wife Nancy and two adult children Stephanie A. and Vanessa R. Cospelich. His brother Oliver, also a Philadelphia firefighter, recently retired after 18 years of service.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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