West Webster injured firefighters talk about Christmas Eve tragedy
Posted at: 03/06/2013 10:36 AM
| Updated at: 03/06/2013 11:49 PM
By: Lynette Adams | WHEC.com
A chilling description about a day that the community will never forget. The firefighters who survived the Webster tragedy are speaking for the first time.
Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter talked with the media Wednesday afternoon for the first time since what happened on Christmas Eve.
Police say William Spengler unleashed a round of gunfire on these first responders, killing Lieutenant Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka and seriously injuring Scardino and Hofstetter.
On Wednesday we got a glimpse of what happened on Lake Road in Webster and how these two volunteer firefighters are doing.
Joseph Hofstetter and Ted Scardino agreed to speak Wednesday afternoon under the watchful eye of their fire chief and on the condition that no questions were asked about their fallen colleagues.
The ordeal is still very "raw" for the volunteer West Webster firefighters.
“You go to a car fire in the middle of the night, you never expect to happen what happened,” said Hofstetter.
It seemed like a routine call for volunteer firefighters Joseph Hofstetter, Ted Scardino and their colleagues. On Christmas Eve morning a call came in for a car fire in West Webster, but minutes after arriving Hofstetter says he realized it was anything but routine.
“I originally thought it was a a car burning. The noise is very similar. It wasn't until I went around the other side of the truck I realized that we were being shot at and I turned and that's when I was struck,” said Hofstetter.
Within minutes, Hofstetter says he knew he had to get away if he was going to survive. In a call he placed to dispatch he said, “I am within about 20 feet of my POV and strongly considering trying to make an escape to the left, any ideas on if that is a good idea?”
At the same time Scardino says he was processing all that was happening.
"For some reason Chip recognized it as gunfire and said we're getting shot at. It was the last words I heard him say,” said Scardino.
Chip was Leuitenant Mike Chiapperini. He and Tomasz Kaczowka were shot and killed that day.
Scardino remembers seeking cover under the fire truck. He says there's only one way to describe what he was feeling.
“Fear, it was just unbelievable fear,” he said.
Scardino says the truck left after about 10 minutes and he was a laying out in the open, not knowing the whereabouts of the gunman. He laid there still, playing dead for about an hour and a half. He even got burned on his head and foot from the fire that grew near him, while he waited to be rescued.
When asked if he was thinking about his family in that moment Scardino said, “Those thoughts run through your mind. I was there an hour and a half. Am I ever going to see anybody again?"
That was 10 weeks ago. Since then the two volunteer firefighters have been released from the hospital. While they both say they are feeling fine, they have a long road to recovery.
What's helping? They say it's your cards, letters, prayers and visits.
“Fellow police officers, firefighters from other areas of the country who dealt with similar situations. It really meant a lot to hear their stories and hear that things can end well,” said Hofstetter.
“Thank you to everyone for the support, good words and kind thoughts. It's just been unbelievable,” said Scardino. “There's a lot of good people out there. Unfortunately, we had this one bad person, but there's a lot good out there."
Police say William Spengler who lived on Lake Road was the mastermind behind the catastrophic events of that day. They say he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Both Scardino and Hofstetter say they plan to continue fighting fires as soon as they're able to get back to work.