And they began doing it: raising money for the Flushing firefighter's hospital bills not covered by insurance.
"He's like our best friend," Rappaport said of Derek Kuhland, a Bayside resident working at Ladder Company 167 in Flushing.
Kuhland, who had worked at the gym at 34-09 Francis Lewis Blvd. for several years before becoming a firefighter, was one of nearly 60 pedestrians struck last year by speeding cars on Queens Boulevard, according to the police. The police said Kuhland was hit around 12:30 a.m. Dec. 4 by a car that was traveling at twice the speed limit at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and 55th Street in Elmhurst.
Officer Theresa Farello, a police spokeswoman, said that at the time of the accident, the driver was given a summons for speeding and failing to produce insurance papers, but no other charges were filed.
Over the last month, Kuhland has remained in a coma at Elmhurst Hospital Center, said Dario Centorcelli, a hospital spokesman, but Rappaport said Kuhland began to show signs of movement on New Year's Day.
Rappaport and Divone decided to start raising money for Kuhland last week, posting an enlarged copy of a flier titled "Speeding Car Hits Firefighter" on the window and converting a water-cooler jug into a depository for donations. And so far, Rappaport said, they have raised nearly $2,000, which will be given to Kuhland's family to help cover his hospital expenses.
Chief Brian Dixon, a Fire Department spokesman, said all firefighters are provided with insurance, but their coverage varies depending on the carrier to which they subscribe.
Rappaport and Divone said they had visited Kuhland at least three times a week over the last month, and they were told Kuhland had begun to show signs of improvement. They said they will keep collecting money until the end of January.
©2001 Community News Group
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