Members of a New Jersey fire department were in mourning Tuesday for a fellow firefighter killed in a mountain biking accident the day before.
Kerry Rivera, 49, was a nearly 14-year veteran of the Paterson Fire Department. His colleagues described him as a stand-up father of three, a football coach and a Sunday school teacher.
Deputy Chief Kevin Hancock said bike riding was a new passion of Rivera’s.
“His brother was really trying to get them involved in mountain biking and his brother was an avid rider,” Hancock said.
On Monday morning, Rivera was biking with his brother on a trail at the 157-acre Mills Reservation in Cedar Grove when he rode his bike off a cliff, falling at least 20 feet into a ravine below.
Hancock said he saw Rivera at the end of his shift Monday. He was wearing his biking gear and ready to hit the trails.
“We had coffee in the morning,” Hancock said. “He was a happy guy. He was one of those guys — there’s probably not a person who knew Kerry who would have a bad thing to say about Kerry.”
The flags were at half-staff at his firehouse on Tuesday and black bunting hung over the doors.
Chief Michael Pastorino said a fire department is like an extended family, and his death hits hard at his second home.
“His immediate shift is hurting, his company is hurting. But we will be here for each other and will move forward,” Pastorino said.
Mills Reservation would have been a challenge for Rivera, a firefighter who had hip surgery about a year ago. But Rivera loved his job and had come to love biking. He wasn’t one to give up.
“He came back from that operation and you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the injury,” Pastorino said.
Mills Reservation has a number of hiking trails, including one that leads to a cliff overlooking the New York City skyline. Biking isn't allowed on the trails, but neighbors say people do it anyway. One man was seen being turned away by police when he tried to pedal in just two hours after the accident.
The exact circumstances surrounding the fall remain under investigation, although authorities have called it an accident.