SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. -- Members of the Lewisboro community shared memories of South Salem Auto Repair owner James O'Connor, who was killed when the engine compartment of a vehicle he was working on caught fire on Wednesday, according to New York State Police.
O'Connor, who died at age 48 and lived in Brookfield, Conn., tried to put out a fire in a Volkswagen Golf that he had been working on, as well as attempting to move it away from a building, state police said. O'Connor fell into the vehicle, became trapped and died due to the fire, police added, attributing the latter action to the Volkswagen sideswiping another vehicle.
Longtime resident Kevin Finney, who works for the town's maintenance shop, knew O'Connor since they were teenagers growing up in town. The two attended John Jay High School, Finney said, and each worked in the same auto shop when it had a different name and owner.
As adults, Finney said he would take town vehicles to O'Connor's shop when he could not troubleshoot a problem.
Finney said he is "still beside myself" over his friend's death. He called O'Connor, who was widely known by his nickname of "Jimmy," as a "good friend" and a "good person."
Lewisboro Supervisor Peter Parsons said O'Connor's impact on town employees was great enough that he excused anyone who wanted to attend his funeral from coming to work.
Parsons, who said O'Connor lost one of his children in a separate tragedy, said it is "unfair" and "cruel" that any family should have to go through what they are dealing with.
Lewisboro Police Chief Frank Secret said when officers could not fix a vehicle it was brought to O'Connor.
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