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Schenectady fire captain killed in Montague ATV crash

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MONTAGUE — A fire captain from Schenectady died from injuries sustained in an all-terrain vehicle crash Monday afternoon in the town of Montague.

John Nicol Jr., 47, and a fellow off-duty firefighter were riding ATVs on Horace Forward Truck Trail when Mr. Nicol lost control on a gravel bed, ran into a tree and was ejected, according to Lewis County Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli.

The riding partner notified local emergency officials, but Mr. Nicol, who was on the lead machine, was pronounced dead at the scene by Lewis County District Attorney Leanne K. Moser, also the county coroner.

An autopsy performed Tuesday afternoon by Dr. Samuel A. Livingstone, coroner’s physician, listed the cause of death as a basilar skull fracture, according to Lewis County Sheriff’s Department Senior Investigator Dale W. Roberts.

About a half dozen firefighters on Tuesday showed up in uniform at Lewis County General Hospital to support Mr. Nicol’s family, Mr. Roberts said.

“When you are working with people in dangerous situations like that, you really become close to one another,” he said. “You form a family bond you don’t get in many other places.”

Mr. Nicol was an experienced ATV rider “but he was not familiar with this trail system,” Mr. Roberts said.

That likely contributed to the crash, which happened on a windy section of the dirt-and-gravel truck trail that actually is closed to ATV traffic, he said.

Horace Forward Truck Trail also runs into the Jefferson County town of Worth and is one of 52 state forest and easements roads in the region that the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed to ATV traffic in 2008.

DEC officials at the time said the move was made out of concern that having the roadways opened to ATVs could violate state Vehicle and Traffic Law.

State forest rangers were on scene Monday and also are investigating, Mr. Roberts said, noting they would have jurisdiction since it took place on state forest land. A DEC spokesman was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Mr. Nicol was a 23-year veteran of the Schenectady Fire Department and had been a captain since November 2006, according to the Daily Gazette newspaper in Schenectady. He leaves a son.

When the department celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2000, he was one of a dozen firefighters who received a certificate of meritorious service.

“Well-respected guy,” Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett told the Daily Gazette. “It’s a real shame.”

Firefighters in that city learned the news as they fought two serious fires Monday, the paper reported.

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