By Kevin Redding
Friends, family and community members did their own quick responding for a beloved Sound Beach firefighter who suffered serious injuries in a recent car crash.
A GoFundMe page to support Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. was set up Dec. 23, one day after the 24-year-old volunteer was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital following a collision with another vehicle on Route 25A and Harrison Ave. in MIller Place at 5 p.m.
According to those close to him, McLoughlin Jr. was pulling into a lot to get a haircut when a driver ran a red light and broadsided his vehicle.
The online fundraiser hit its goal of $15,000 after just two days, and within 10, the fund exceeded the goal with $19,664. So far 350 people have donated, with individual contributions ranging from $5 to as much as $1,000.
The accident left McLoughlin Jr. with two broken vertebrae, and since he’ll be out of work for a minimum of three months, the money raised will go toward the surgery he needed to fuse part of his spine, future medical and rehabilitation costs and the eventual replacement of his totaled vehicle.
The Sound Beach native recently graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut with a communications degree and has been juggling a second part-time job as a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY.
Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg spearheaded the campaign on behalf of the district, with the hope of giving back to someone he considers “a very dedicated man to the department and the community.”
“I was amazed at how many people stepped up to help him out … we’re very appreciative of anyone who has donated,” he said. “Jimmy has always been there when you need him. He’s always willing to train, always willing to help anybody.”
Sound Beach Captain Darran Handshaw, who compiled the GoFundMe page, said the speedy outpouring and money raised is a testament to McLoughlin Jr.’s character.
“He’s done so much for the community and he’s just an all around great guy,” Handshaw said. “He’s always a reliable firefighter, always on the first engine and somebody that I count on when I get into a fire.”
McLoughlin Jr. has a lifelong commitment to the fire department — in fact, it’s in his blood.
His father, James McLoughlin Sr., currently serves as fire commissioner for Sound Beach and was once the chief.
“When he was born, I was a fire chief,” his father said. “He was part of the department from the time he took his first breath, and there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t stop there for one reason for another. As long as he’s in town, he’s there.”
McLoughlin said it’s heartwarming to see all the support his son has in the community.
“He’s one of the go-to people when somebody needs help,” he said. “Ever since he was a child, Jimmy was very community-oriented.”
McLoughlin Jr. joined the junior fire company when he was 13 years old and served in it for five years while simultaneously climbing the ranks toward Eagle Scout. He graduated from Rocky Point High School in 2011 and on his 18th birthday, he joined the fire department and maintained his responsibilities there whenever he came home from college for summer and winter breaks.
“He got his fire academy training squeezed in while going to college; he just lives and breaths the fire service,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “Even people who went to school locally weren’t able to maintain their fire responsibilities and quotas, and he was able to do it while going to school out of state.”
As driver on one of the fire engines, McLoughlin Jr.’s responsibilities are to maintain the truck, make sure it’s in working order and train every individual that comes into the department. To this day, his father said, anyone who needs to learn how to drive or pump one of the engines, “they go to Jimmy to learn how to do it.”
In 2014, McLoughlin Jr. was recognized for all his contributions and ability to balance his fire services and academics when he was chosen by the department as Firefighter of the Year, the fire department’s highest honor. He also received his engine company’s award the same year, which is given out by the fire department for demonstrating a certain level of skill performance and recognizes one’s ability to work within a team.
According to the GoFundMe page, he’s “performed so many heroic acts of kindness for the community.”
In 2015, he fought a large house fire inside a fellow firefighter’s family home. McLoughlin Jr. manned the hoseline, went inside the house and stopped the fire that had spread through the basement and most of the main floor.
Afterward, he filmed and produced a video with the family who lost almost everything in the fire in which they shared their experience with the community to teach key fire safety lessons. The video has since been seen all over the world and has been an integral part of Sound Beach’s fire prevention efforts.
According to his father, McLoughlin Jr. is out of surgery and resting at home. He has been able to walk and move around, but because of the procedure, he has to wear a collar support for the next six to eight weeks. He’s still in a lot of pain.
McLoughlin Jr. might have a long road to full rehabilitation ahead, but his usual spirit remains intact.
“He’s determined,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “He’s got a positive outlook … it’s not ‘am I gonna be on my feet?’ it’s ‘when I’m back on my feet.’”