September 28th, 2002

  • sundown

(no subject)

THIS is believed to have been the first post 9/11 tragedy...

A despondent FDNY medical technician, overcome by the emotional trauma of sifting through body parts and debris for several months at Ground Zero, ended his ongoing bout with depression by taking his own life, The Post has learned.

Daniel E. Stewart, 27, gave no warning before he hanged himself late Friday night in the basement of his Long Beach, L.I., home, but left behind a harrowing suicide note, sources said.

Stewart, who worked out of Battalion 44 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, wrote about the heartache he suffered after hauling body after body from the ruins of the World Trade Center in the weeks following Sept. 11, sources said.

"That definitely took a toll," said paramedic Octavio Collado of Battalion 44.

Stewart, who was single, spent the first 12 days after Sept. 11 removing bodies, Collado said, and continued to toil through the wreckage on his off days well into January.

After that, Stewart went to the site no more than once a week, but the emotional damage was done.

"He was psychologically distraught after seeing the devastation and the lives lost," Collado said.

Voluntary counseling was made available on a 24-hour basis in the months following 9/11, and Stewart sought treatment on at least one occasion, Collado said, but he feels more should have been done.

"There should have been more counseling," he said. "They should have set up mandatory counseling."

Collado said Stewart called him Friday evening, asking to get together and talk, and they arranged to meet on Sunday.

Just two hours later, Stewart took his own life.

"He didn't give me any indication," Collado said. "There weren't any real warning signs."

Craig Garwood, a paramedic and one of Stewart's close friends, said the suicide came as a "total shock."

"As far as we knew, Daniel was OK," Garwood said. "We didn't suspect anything was wrong."

In his three years on the job, Stewart - a big hockey fan who liked surfing and fishing - developed a passion for his work, his colleagues said.