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Thousands Mourn Medic in NYC Who 'Died as a Hero'

The 14-year veteran FDNY EMT was killed last Thursday after she was run over by an ambulance

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    The brave EMT killed in the line of duty was remembered in the Bronx by those who loved her the most. Wale Aliyu reports.

    (Published Friday, March 24, 2017)

    Thousands of family, friends and colleagues of slain FDNY emergency medical technician Yadira Arroyo packed into a funeral home in the Bronx to say their final goodbyes.

    The two-day wake for the 44-year-old mother of five began Thursday and will continue Friday at the Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home in the Van Nest neighborhood. Viewing times will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    Hundreds of FDNY officials in white caps and matching gloves stood in front of the funeral home on Morris Park Avenue, quietly milling around as they waited to enter. A sea of navy blue stretched along Hunt Avenue as company members patiently waited to pay respect to their fallen comrade.

    Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. expressed his condolences to Arroyo's family and mentioned the outpouring of supportive calls and messages from hundreds throughout the borough to her family, who live in the Bronx. 

    "This is really a show of support for someone who was truly a hero," he said. "It is tragic, it's hurtful, it is painful, but her life and legacy will continue to be celebrated through her sons."

    EMS Bronx Division Commander Alvin Suriel said, "Everybody has seen the video, she fought. Because somebody is taking your ambulance, what are they going to do with the ambulance? Are they going to commit the next terrorist attack? Are they going to run over 10 people on the block?" 

    "She certainly lived as a hero, and died as a hero for the city," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

    FDNY paramedic Alex Tull, who worked with Arroyo, says his colleagues are still in shock as they mourn for the sister they lost. "Yadi," as she was affectionately called, was like a mother to their station, always making sure everyone was fed before their shifts and treating her patients like family, he said. 

    "That was Yadi. She was just -- the light. She always made me smile," Tull said. "At Station 26, we're really gonna miss her, but we're getting though it by remembering the good times and sticking by each other."

    Several other colleagues echoed Tull's sentiments as they recalled the 14-year veteran's outgoing nature and ability to put whomever she came into contact with at ease.

    David Cadogan, who worked with Arroyo for 14 years of his 17-year career, described Station 26 as a family, one where she was the matriarch. He called her "one of the most confident, well-respected and caring individuals" he's ever worked with.

    "In this field, your name is your reputation. As you can see, her name, her reputation is impeccable," Cadogan said. "I miss her. That's one of the dynamics of this station that makes this so hard for us -- we're literally a family."

    Arroyo's funeral will be held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in University Heights at 11 a.m. Saturday. She will be buried at St. Raymond's Cemetery following the procession.

    Hundreds of people lit candles at a vigil for Arroyo Sunday night at the scene where her life was taken. Family and friends shared stories about the selfless, hard-working mom. 

    The man accused of killing her, Jose Gonzalez, is behind bars. His attorney says he's severely mentally ill.

    In a show of force, mourning members of the FDNY packed the Bronx Criminal Courthouse Wednesday for Gonzalez's hearing, which he skipped.

    The EMT was killed last Thursday after she and her partner tried to stop the 25-year-old from hijacking the ambulance they were riding in. Police say Gonzalez put the ambulance in reverse, ran over Arroyo, then went forward, dragging her into an intersection.

    Gonzalez has 31 prior arrests and four prior misdemeanors on his record, authorities say. He faces murder, manslaughter and robbery charges.