Tragic fireman remembered

A FIREMAN who died in a crash while answering an emergency call 30 years ago has been posthumously honoured.

Horden man Tony Hall was just 24 and a fireman at Peterlee Fire Station when he and fellow firefighter John Donley, 26, were killed after their fire engine left the road and crashed into a ditch while responding to a 999 call.

Mr Hall, whose 24-year-old wife Gillian was four months pregnant with their son Adam, and his colleague, who was from Seaham and dad to a four-month-old daughter, had been sitting in the back of the appliance’s cab when the incident happened in the early hours of September 5, 1982.

Following the crash, which also saw three colleagues injured, all fire appliances were fitted with reinforced cabs to ensure firefighters’ safety.

Three decades later, on the anniversary of the tragic incident, Mr Hall’s 87-year-old mother Rita and other relatives were invited to the National Memorial Arboretum, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where the two firefighters’ names have been added to a memorial.

Also on the anniversary of their deaths, firefighters from Peterlee Fire Station placed a floral tribute at the spot where the incident happened, on South Hetton Road, just outside Easington Village.

Former munitions factory worker Mrs Hall, who still lives in Horden, said: “It’s lovely to think they are still remembered.”

Mrs Hall, who is also mother to Derek Hall, 65, who is now principal of Oslo International School, and Barbara Darley, 59, added: “It’s still as hard to deal with 30 years on.”

Mr Hall, who had been a member of The Church Lads’ Brigade at St Mary’s Church, in Horden, had followed in the footsteps of his father John Jorden Hall, who after 30 years of working in various fire stations in County Durham, finished his career as a station officer at Peterlee.

After leaving school at 16, Sunderland and Chelsea fan Mr Hall was unsuccessful at his first attempt of joining the fire service as a junior recruit but went on to succeed in an apprenticeship as a sewing machine mechanic working in a factory at Blackhall and then in Hartlepool.

A tribute on The Firefighters Charity website, written last year by Mr Hall’s wife, who has since remarried, said: “His service to the community during his time in the fire service was of the greatest pride to him, which gives the family comfort in his loss from our lives.

“Tony, you were taken from us all at such a young age and not given the chance for us to grow old together or for you to see your son grow up to be a fine young man, but we take some comfort in knowing that you died in the line of duty doing the job you loved.”

There are also memorials in Mr Hall and Mr Donley’s honour at Peterlee Fire Station, the chapel at the Fire Service College in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, Harcombe House in Exeter, and on the National Fire Brigade Memorial Statue outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Mr Hall also has memorials at St Mary’s Church, Horden and at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in the Chapel of The Guild of All Souls, Norfolk.