The town's two volunteer fire companies and Madison Ambulance Association honored one of their own this week, Robert Komola, who died in a one-car accident on I-95 in Madison the morning of April 15.
Komola, 49, of 70 Cottage Road, had been a volunteer with the North Madison Fire Department and the Madison Hose Company. At the time of his death, he worked part-time as an emergency medical technician with the Madison Ambulance Association and fulltime as an emergency dispatcher for the town of Guilford.
"Bob Komola was always an involved, dedicated employee who was proud to work here," Chris Bernier, ambulance association director, said. Komola started with the ambulance service part-time in 2001. "He worked his way up through the organization as an EMT, eventually becoming fulltime and then being named a lieutenant. He moved back to part-time service when he accepted a fulltime position as dispatcher with Guilford. This was a good-hearted guy, a man who was compassionate and patient with everyone, always willing to lend a hand."
Paul L. Harris of the North Madison Fire Department echoes the same thoughts. Last week, he said, "was a sad day for Madison." Komola was with the North Madison department from April 1995 to August 2006. When he moved to Cottage Road, he joined the Madison Hose Company.
"He served our department as a firefighter and was also a company officer with the position of lieutenant. He was instrumental in establishing our water supply structure in North Madison. He was a hands-on guy, always a smile and ready to lend a helping hand. He remained good friends with many of us even after he moved downtown and joined Madison Hose. He was a great father and mentor as well. His son is a member of Killingworth's department," Harris said.
Fire Chief Robert Gerard of Madison Hose Company said, "Bob was the guy who was always there doing the jobs that make everything run. He made himself available whenever he was needed. He was always happy, and he was always there. He dedicated an amazing amount of time to the town of Madison and its residents."
Komola was instrumental in determining the design and specifications for the new tanker truck that was delivered this week. "That was two and a half years of meetings on nights and weekends, talking with committee members and suppliers, checking and confirming every detail," Gerard said.
The new tanker was part of the funeral procession that accompanied Komola's casket from the Swan Funeral Home to St. Margaret's Church on Wednesday morning and then on to the burial at West Cemetery. Members of Madison Hose, the North Madison department and the ambulance association also accompanied the casket, which was carried in the hose company's antique fire truck. All three services also provided honor guards during the calling hours at the funeral home Tuesday.
At just about 9 a.m. April 15, the call came in to Madison's emergency services saying simply "motor vehicle accident on the highway." Komola had been traveling southbound on I-95 just north of Exit 60. According to Connecticut State Police reports, his car drifted off onto the right shoulder and struck a tree.
When the first paramedics and fire personnel reached the scene, they recognized the car's driver and also realized he was dead. Fire Lt. Chris Yenco of Madison and Fire Marshal Sam DeBurra was first at the scene. Once the paramedic determined the accident was fatal, protocol required that the scene remain untouched until a state medical examiner could arrive.
Gerard said it was volunteers from Madison Hose who used the extraction equipment to remove Komola from the 1996 Chevrolet Lumina. "It was a difficult assignment. This was someone they knew and liked, but they knew what had to be done. They are an amazing group of guys."
On the evening of the accident, Gerard called a meeting with the entire department and invited Madison Ambulance Association personnel as well. "We talked that night about Bob, about the protocols we followed. It was difficult. It was a somber time for everyone."