1975 Rockbottom Dam Hero Passes Away
A retired Binghamton firefighter is being remembered not only for his years of protecting his community but for his place in the City’s history.
Captain Michael Durkan was one of the rescuers at the Rock Bottom Dam tragedy in 1975 that claimed the lives of three fellow firefighters. Durkan passed away October 8. Funeral services will be held November 8 at 1 p.m. J.A. McCormack Sons Funeral Home on Main Street.
Heavy rain swelled area rivers September 28 of 1975 when two rafters were swept over the dam, becoming trapped in the swirling current. Durkan and two other firefighters tried to rescue the rafters, pulling one person from the water on a second attempt. During the attempt to rescue the second rafter, the firefighters’ boat capsized. Durkan, another firefighter and the rafter were able to get free of the current but Firefighter John Russell drowned. During the attempt to recover Russell’s body the next day, Fire Chief John Cox and Captain Donald McGeever also drowned when their boat capsized.
During a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the tragedy, Durkan conveyed the events of those two days continued to haunt him.
According to an obituary placed by the family, Durkan was born in South Shields, England and served in the Binghamton Fire Department for 30 years before retiring in 2004.
He was 71.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Retired Professional Firefighters Cancer Fund, 4 Loretta Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905 or Friends of the Broome County Public Library.