Remembering Thomas Royds: Late Firefighter Honored at Union Fire Association in Lower Merion Township

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

Belmont Hills Fire Company firefighter Thomas Royds, 48, was responding to an emergency 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 not only was accelerating before the crash, but three of his Jeep Grand Cherokee’s four brakes were not working. They say it was something Walker allegedly knew about, but refused to fix.

Authorities now believe Walker was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, despite his earlier admission of drinking prior to the crash. They dropped the DUI charge after getting the toxicology report.

Royds has served with the Lower Merion Fire Department in Montgomery County since 1988. He recently split his time between three fire 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, deputy fire chief for the Union Fire Association. “He imitated the word firefighter, his work ethic, his camaraderie with all the guys.”

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

“He was like one of my children, watching him grow up here,” Hornung said.

SEE ALSO: New charges announced in crash 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.

“This is something you will never forget,” Pennsylvania State Acting Fire Commissioner Chas McGarvey said.

The Schuylkill Highway from milepost 334.5 to milepost 335.5 in Lower Merion Township will be named the “Firefighter Thomas Royds Memorial Highway” in September.

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

“Every day I remember who you are and what we’ve all been through, and I use that as motivation to make the most of each day,” said Belmont Hills Fire Company firefighter Fischer.

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

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Andrew B. Reiter