Manuel “Manny” Rivera Sr.
Trenton firefighter dies weeks after collapsing during rescue
by Alex Zdan/The Times 
Wednesday April 02, 2009

TRENTON — A city firefighter who was hurt rescuing a man from a burning building in February died from his injuries late Tuesday night. Manny Rivera had been in a coma since he collapsed at the scene that night, after taking off his mask to urge a man who was hanging by his fingers from a window to move onto a ladder and to safety.
“By giving his life to save that of another, Firefighter Rivera made the ultimate sacrifice,” Fire Director Richard Laird said yesterday.
That sacrifice was particularly felt by Jonathan Guttierez Aguero, the man rescued by Rivera that night.
“I’m so sad about it, but he’s an angel now,” Aguero said yesterday. “He saved my life and I’m going to be thankful for giving me a second chance always.”
Rivera was 42 years old, and married with 5 children. He was a 14-year veteran of the fire department.
Firefighters said Rivera began to take a turn for the worse Tuesday morning, and members of the department were at his side along with his family to say goodbye.
Just before midnight, the department’s radio system transmitted a signal 5-5-5-5 announcing Rivera’s death in the line of duty. Around the city, flags flew at half staff by order of the mayor, Douglas H. Palmer.
Rivera, who was a member of Engine 3, was working overtime on Engine 7 the night of Feb. 8 when they were dispatched to the 100 block of Washington Street. Upon arrival around 9:45 p.m., they found heavy smoke and fire emanating from the home.
Aguero, 29, was trapped on the third floor and hanging from the windowsill, Laird said. Moving into place with a ladder, Rivera removed his mask so he could be heard as he told Aguero to get on the ladder. With smoke billowing in his face, Rivera was able to calm Aguero and get him to climb down.
Rivera collapsed as soon as he climbed down to ground level, and was rushed to St. Francis Medical Center. There, he was put in a medically induced coma for over a day. Doctors said he had sustained damage to his brain and heart, possibly due to a lack of oxygen.
Projections were not optimistic, with doctors telling his family the time after the coma would be critical. But Rivera showed improvement, responding to a pain test conducted Feb. 12 and displaying a heart rate increase when his family talked to him.
On March 12, he was taken to Lourdes Specialty Hospital of Southern New Jersey in Willingboro, where he remained until his death.
Full honors are planned at Rivera’s funeral Saturday morning, and over 2,000 firefighters from across the region and the state are expected to attend.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Superior Officers Union president Bill Paradiso said Rivera’s death had been a “trauma” to the department.
“Manny had numerous friends on the fire department,” he said.
“It’s losing a family member,” Laird said. “It’s like losing your brother or your sister.”
Firefighter Union President Wayne Wolk described Rivera as fun loving and skilled at his job.
“Manny was a tremendous guy, a tremendous family man, a great firefighter,” Wolk said. “He fought hard, he wasn’t able to come through.”
Mayor Palmer said he spoke with Rivera’s wife yesterday morning, and praised the close-knit family.
“They have just been tremendously courageous through this whole ordeal,” he said.
Rivera’s death is the 18th since the advent of the city’s paid fire department in 1896, and the first since 1986.
Laird and Palmer said Rivera’s name will soon be added to the firefighter’s monument in front of City Hall.
The viewing will be held at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption on North Warren Street. Calling hours will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Rivera’s funeral will be held at the Cathedral on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., and his casket will be driven on a fire truck to Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery in Hamilton for entombment.
Contact Alex Zdan at or (609) 989-5705.

Martin Griff /The TimesTrenton Fire Battalion Chief William Paradiso and Trenton Fire Director Richard Laird Jr. at a press conference at Trenton Fire Headquarters today announcing the death of Trenton firefighter Manny Rivera.

Martin Griff /The TimesTrenton Fire Battalion Chief William Paradiso and Trenton Fire Director Richard Laird Jr. at a press conference at Trenton Fire Headquarters today announcing the death of Trenton firefighter Manny Rivera.


Manuel “Manny” Rivera Sr.            

Manuel ‘Manny’ Rivera Sr. WILLINGBORO – Manuel (Manny) Rivera Sr., 42, of Trenton passed into God’s welcome embrace on March 31, 2009, at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Willingboro, NJ, from injuries he sustained in the line of duty at a Trenton house fire on Feb. 9, 2009. Manny was born in Trenton and was a graduate of Trenton Central High School and the Mercer County Fire Academy.

A Trenton fireman for 14 years, he was presently with Engine No. 3. Left to cherish his memory are his beloved and devoted wife of 12 years Dalixa (Montalvo) Rivera; his loving parents, Ernesto Enrique Rivera Sr. and Purificacion Rivera; his caring children, Christopher A. Rivera (18 years), Manuel Rivera Jr. (18 years), Natasha I. Rivera (17 years), Steven A. Rivera (14 years) and Caitlin P. Rivera (12 years), and his nephew that he help ed raise, Onix Xavier Montalvo; and three sisters and a brother, Joann Bello, and her husband Benito Bello, Pura Rivera, and Denise Medrano and her husband, Joel Medrano, and Ernesto Rivera Jr.; his paternal grandmother, Maria Burgos, and many nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, cousins, and aunts, uncles on his spouse’s side of the family and his side of the family, here and Puerto Rico, including nephew, Jaime Roman, and nieces, Angela and Leeandra Bello, and his mother-in-law and father-in-law Melquiades Montalvo and Cruz M. Negron, and a granddaughter, as well as his many friends and wonderful fellow firefighters.

A Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 10 a.m. in The Cathedral of St. Mary of The Assumption, 151 N. Warren St., Trenton. His Excellency Bishop John M. Smith and Msgr. John K. Dermond will officiate. Entombment will be in Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery Mausoleum, 400 Woolsey St., Hamilton, NJ 08610. Viewing hours will be held 4-9 p.m. Friday evening, April 3, 2009, at the Cathedral. A wake service will be held Friday evening at 8 p.m. at the Cathedral. Calling hours are also 8:30-9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Cathedral. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests memorial contributions may be made payable to The Manny Fund, c/o the Trenton Firefighters Credit Union, 244 Perry St., 3rd Floor, Trenton NJ 08618. Arrangements have been entrusted by the family to the personal care and coordination of Mr. David C. Chiacchio CFSP, Funeral Director, and staff, South Trenton, NJ.