October 23, 2021

Cortland firefighter hurt in car crash dies

Cortland city firefighter Stephen Zelsnack died Friday evening as a result of injuries he received Nov. 30 in an off-duty car crash, Deputy Fire Chief Wayne Friedman said this morning.

“At this point after his passing, the entire department is set back,” Friedman said. “With the extent of the injuries, it has been tough on everyone. Everyone is dealing with it in their own way. We are working with the family.”

Zelsnack died at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, where he had been treated since the accident, said Friedman, who noted Zelsnack’s wife, the couple’s two children and his wife’s brother were all present.

According to his wishes and those of his family, Zelsnack’s organs will be donated to others, Friedman said.

Police said Zelsnack was traveling eastbound on Sayles Corners Road in Sempronious at 2:53 p.m. Nov. 30 when he failed to stop at a stop sign at Route 41A and was struck by a northbound tractor-trailer.

Funeral arrangements had not been set as of this morning but will be in the coming days.

Zelsnack, 48, of Marathon was a fourth-generation farmer, and members of the Cortland and other fire departments had been coming to his farm to help with chores. The 228-acre farm has 40 sheep, 13 pigs and more than 100 beef cows.

Fundraisers are being established in Zelsnack’s memory, Friedman said.

Zelsnack was hired by the city fire department on Jan. 17, 2011. He was also a Marathon volunteer firefighter.

City firefighter Derek Reynolds said earlier this week that being a firefighter and a farmer were two of Zelsnack’s passions.

“Being a small department, everyone knows everyone and everyone is close,” Friedman. “We are trying to support our members … and the family.”