Father Of 9/11 First Responder Fatally Struck In N.J.

 January 19, 2024

In a heart-wrenching turn of events, Joseph Zadroga, a prominent advocate for Sept. 11 first responders, was tragically killed in a vehicle accident in New Jersey.

Known for his relentless efforts to support 9/11 heroes, Zadroga's death marks a significant loss to the community he tirelessly served.

Joseph Zadroga, aged 76, met with an untimely demise when he was struck by an SUV while standing outside his parked car. The accident occurred at the Bacharach Rehabilitation Center in Galloway, N.J., where Zadroga was visiting his wife.

Unforeseen Tragedy Strikes

The driver, 82-year-old James McNeal, was maneuvering into a parking space when he lost control and accelerated, colliding with Zadroga's vehicle and then pinning him under McNeal's SUV. The local police department reported the incident, highlighting the tragic circumstances that led to Zadroga's death.

Despite the swift response of medics who rushed Zadroga to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Mainland Division, their efforts were in vain.

John Feal, a Sept. 11 survivors advocate, reflected on the loss, stating, “We’re used to losing people to 9/11-related illness, but losing icons in such a horrible fashion is hard to accept.”

A Son's Legacy and a Father's Fight

Zadroga's advocacy was deeply personal, stemming from the loss of his son, James Zadroga. James, a former NYPD officer, died in January 2006 after battling respiratory disease, a condition attributed to his exposure at Ground Zero.

His father's battle to have his death recognized as 9/11-related led to a public apology from then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2007. This apology came after Bloomberg controversially claimed that James Zadroga was “not a hero,” a statement that drew significant backlash.

The Zadroga family's lawyer, Michael Barasch, recounted the intense fight to get recognition for James's sacrifice. He shared a poignant memory of James's daughter, Tyler Ann, then only four years old, helping her father with his oxygen container.

“One of the most heartbreaking things in my law firm was seeing Jimmy and Joe and Tyler Ann in my library, with Tyler Ann changing the oxygen for him,” said Barasch.

Controversy and Clarity: The Battle Over James's Death

The initial ruling by New York City medical examiner Charles Hirsch attributed James Zadroga's death to drug abuse, a claim that contradicted findings by Dr. Gerard Breton, the medical examiner for Ocean County, N.J.

Dr. Breton, after consulting with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, concluded that James died from severe scarring of lung tissue directly related to his exposure on 9/11. The findings showed that his lungs contained materials consistent with toxic dust from Ground Zero.

The Zadroga family sought a third opinion from Dr. Michael Baden, a renowned forensic pathology expert who corroborated Breton's findings.

The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act

In honor of James, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was enacted in 2010. Joseph Zadroga played a pivotal role in getting the act reauthorized and extended for another 75 years after its initial lapse.

“It gave Joe a purpose,” said Barasch. “He turned his son’s death into a clarion call for justice for the entire 9/11 community.”

Joseph Zadroga's advocacy included powerful speeches, like the one he gave in 2015 near One World Trade Center, where he highlighted the dire need for support for those affected by 9/11.

Impact Beyond Legislation

Benjamin Chevat, the executive director of the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, acknowledged Joseph Zadroga as "indispensable to the struggle to get 9/11 responders and survivors the help they needed and deserved from Washington.”

Comedian and former “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, a high-profile supporter of the Zadroga Act, was reportedly shaken by the news of Joseph Zadroga's death.

Patrick Hendry, president of the Police Benevolent Association, described Joseph as a strong champion for the “blue family,” emphasizing his significant impact on every 9/11 responder.


  • Joseph Zadroga, a devoted advocate for 9/11 first responders, was killed in a tragic accident in New Jersey.
  • His advocacy was fueled by the loss of his son, James Zadroga, a former NYPD officer who died from a 9/11-related illness.
  • The Zadroga family fought for James's death to be recognized as related to 9/11, leading to a public apology from Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
  • The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named after James, was instrumental in supporting 9/11 responders and survivors.
  • Joseph Zadroga's death is mourned by the community he tirelessly supported, marking a significant loss to the 9/11 survivors and responders.

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