Fallen firefighter honored year after fatal crash on Schuylkill Expressway

On Wednesday, Thomas Royds was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain by his chief.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022
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Remembering the fallen: The Schuylkill Expressway, from mile marker 334.5 to mile marker 335.5 in Lower Merion Township, will be named "Firefighter Thomas Royds Memorial Highway."

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

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

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

Investigators say Walker was not only speeding before the crash, but three of the four brakes on her Jeep Grand Cherokee did not work. They say this was something Walker was reportedly aware of, yet declined to fix.

Authorities now believe Walker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, despite her previous admission of drinking before the crash. They withdrew the DUI charge after getting the toxicology report.

Royds served with the Lower Merion Fire Department in Montgomery County since 1988. He recently split his time between three fire companies.

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

"It's like losing a brother, it really is," said David Staffieri, deputy fire chief with the Union Fire Association. "He emulated the word firefighter, his work ethic, his comradery with all the guys."

Royds was a lieutenant with the Union Fire Association. On Wednesday, he was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain by James Hornung, chief fire officer with Union Fire Association.

"He was like one of my kids, seeing him grow up here," said Hornung.

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

"It's something you never forget," said Acting Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Chas McGarvey.

The Schuylkill Expressway, from mile marker 334.5 to mile marker 335.5 in Lower Merion Township, will be named the "Firefighter Thomas Royds Memorial Highway" sometime in September.

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

"Every day I am reminded of what you are and what we all went through, and I use that as my motivation to make the best of my every day," said Fischer, a firefighter with Belmont Hills Fire Company.

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