Family, friends mourn fire engineer found unconscious at station
Members of Greg Hennessey’s crew performed CPR when the OCFA engineer was found in full cardiac arrest Monday, officials say. He was pronounced dead in Mission Hospital.
He was a volunteer firefighter in New York, but tried to leave the profession when his wife told him she was scared. He began working at JC Penney after the family moved to California.
It didn’t take long, however, before Hennessey realized what his calling was.
“He just wasn’t happy,” his wife, Deanna Hennessey, said Monday. “He got involved again, and within a year he was a firefighter again.”
For the next 24 years, he worked for the Orange County Fire Authority until his career, and life, suddenly ended Monday morning.
Hennessey was working a shift at OCFA station 45, 30131 Aventura, when he was found unconscious by his crew at 9:40 a.m., Capt. Steve Concialdi said. Members of the crew performed CPR and then transported him to Mission Hospital.
He was pronounced dead at 10:20 a.m. He was 49.
An OCFA honor guard salutes as mortuary staff transports the flag-draped body of engineer Greg Hennessey, a 27-year member of the department, into O'Connor Mortuary Monday. Hennessey was found unconscious in his fire station, OCFA station 45, Monday morning, according to officials. He was transported to declared dead at Mission Hospital a short time later.
“Today we lost a valuable family member,” Fire Chief Keith Richter said. “Greg was a respected engineer and indispensable mentor to the young lives that he helped.”
Ten firefighters were at the station at the time.
Hennessey was an apparatus engineer, driving the fire truck in Rancho Santa Margarita. He also worked as an advisor for fire explorers in Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo, mentoring teenagers who were thinking about a career as a firefighter, OCFA spokeswoman Lynette Round said.
“He wasn’t one to garner a lot of attention, he was really behind the scenes,” she said.
He worked as a mentor for aspiring firefighters for the last eight years, Concialdi said, and also taught in the apparatus engineer academy.
“That was a passion of his,” he said. “He was committed to teaching new firefighters.”
Hennessey began his career with OCFA in 1990, where he worked as a firefighter for 11 years.
In 2001, he was promoted to engineer.
“He was probably one of the most conscientious firefighters I’ve ever met, very, very excellent and competent at his job, well-liked by the firefighters, really a leader among firefighters in the OCFA,” said OCFA Division Chief Greg McKeown, who attended the fire academy in Rancho Santa Margarita with Hennessey in 1990.
“It’s definitely a blow to all of us because it was very unexpected,” he said.
At his Trabuco Canyon home, Hennessey is remembered as a caring father and a neighbor.
Donna Dipietrantonio, who lives across from the Hennesseys on High Country Drive, said the family supported her when she lost her husband.
“(Greg Hennessey) always kept an eye when I wasn’t home,” Dipietrantonio said. “He and his family invited me to their Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthday parties, whenever there were celebratory occasions. He was a really good friend, always willing to help me.”
Deanna Hennessey said her husband always wished to be remembered as a “simple man,” who treasured basic things in life and lived for his family.
“I’m just numb right now,” she said. “It’s hard.”
Greg Hennessey is survived by his wife and sons Ryan, 22, and Brandon, 19, according to the statement.
Hennessey, as well as his two sons, were Eagle Scouts, Concialdi said.
“We are assisting the Hennessey family during this difficult time, and appreciate the support from those around us,” Richter said in the statement.
OCFA Officials said information about funeral services will be announced when they become available.
Photo Credit: JOSHUA SUDOCK, OC Register Photographer