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Man dies as FDNY gets lost

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A Little Neck family said the death of its patriarch could have been avoided if the city’s emergency responders had electronic maps in their vehicles.

The family of Tom Gallagher called 911 May 3 to report that the 69-year-old Little Neck resident was having a heart attack. Gallagher died as emergency responders struggled for more than 30 minutes to find his home on Van Nostrand Court near the Little Neck Parkway and Northern Boulevard.

Maura Gallagher said the family later found out her father had died from lack of oxygen to the brain, not a heart attack.

“This is a very unfortunate tragedy,” she said. “We’re not blaming the Fire Department. They do a lot of wonderful things. But this is a grave injustice, so we want to make sure no other family goes through this. There are elderly people and children on Van Nostrand Court, so this can’t ever happen again.”

She said there are several firefighters and city employees in the family.

Tom Gallagher, who was a retired stationery engineer for Fordham University, was in his bedroom around 10 p.m. when he lost consciousness, his daughter said.

His son, Thomas Gallagher, attempted to revive him as firefighters tried to find the home for more than a half-hour. But emergency vehicles passed by the family’s cul-de-sac several times before Mary Gallagher, Tom Gallagher’s wife, flagged ´╗┐them down.

Steve Ritea, a spokesman for the FDNY, said fire trucks are not equipped with GPS systems or electronic maps. But the Gallaghers’ home was difficult to find because their street was not marked, he said.

“This was in a private, unmarked, gated street,” he said. “It looks like it could be a private driveway. Our ambulances were on the scene in 12 minutes, but they had difficulty finding the home. They consulted their maps and were in contact with dispatch trying to find it. If you look up this street on Google Maps, it’s not listed.”

Ritea said details about Van Nostrand Court in the FDNY and EMS systems have been updated.

A funeral was held for Gallagher, who was born in the Bronx and lived in Little Neck for 35 years, Saturday at St. Anastasia Church in Douglaston.

“This is about making sure that people charged with responding to emergency situations have the tools they need to get where they are going,” Maura Gallagher said. “My father was an outstanding and devoted father, husband, brother and grandfather.”

He is survived by five children and his wife.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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