Remembering Thomas Royds: Fallen firefighter honored at Union Fire Association in Lower Merion Township

BALA CYNWYD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — Family and friends gathered to honor the life of a firefighter who was killed on duty on the Schuylkill Expressway last year.

Thomas Royds, 48, a firefighter with the Belmont Hills Fire Company, was responding to an 911 call when he was killed on July 24, 2021.

Authorities have charged Jacquelyn Walker, 63, of Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, with third-degree murder in connection with the crash that killed Royds and injured three other first responders.

Investigators say Walker was not only speeding before the accident, but three of the four brakes on her Jeep Grand Cherokee failed. They say Walker was aware of this but refused to fix it.

Authorities now believe Walker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, although she had been drinking prior to the crash. They withdrew the DUI charge after receiving the toxicology report.

Royds had served with the Lower Merion Fire Service since 1988. He recently split his time between three firefighting companies.

On Wednesday afternoon, his loved ones gathered at the Union Fire Association to honor his life of service.

“It’s like losing a brother, it really is,” said David Staffieri, assistant fire chief for the Union Fire Association. “He mimicked the word fireman, you know his work ethic, his camaraderie with all the guys.”

Royds was a lieutenant in the Union Fire Association. His boss was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.

“He was like one of my kids growing up here,” said James Hornung, chief fire officer of the Union Fire Association.

ALSO SEE: New charges in accident that killed Montgomery County firefighter on I-76

A bronze plaque was placed prominently in front of the Union Fire Association to honor his memory.

“You never forget that,” said Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Chas McGarvey.

The Schuylkill Expressway, from mile marker 334.5 to mile marker 335.5 in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, will be designated the “Firefighter Thomas Royds Memorial Highway” sometime in September.

Alex Fischer and Sam Shaffer, the two firefighters injured that day who responded with Royds, shared their memories.

“Every day I’m reminded of what you are and what we’ve all been through, and I use that as my motivation to be the best I can be every day,” said Fischer, a firefighter with the Belmont Hills Fire Company.

“You died for us, and now we live for you,” added Belmont Hills Fire Company firefighter Sam Shaffer.

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Alley Einstein

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