CHEEKTOWAGA, NY (WIVB) A volunteer who had responded to countless motorcycle accidents as a first responder lost his life in a motorcycle crash on Sunday.
On French Road in Cheektowaga. the flag flies at half staff outside the South Line Fire District number 10, and another flag flies in memoriam of the fire hall’s Assistant Chief Michael Altenburg.
“It really hasn’t sunk in to me yet that this is even happening,” said South Line’s Chief Andy Dayton. Dayton said Altenburg, 48, was the kind of guy you always wanted to be around. He could lift you up whatever the circumstance.
Altenburg was about half way home after spending the weekend at the Thousand Islands River Run Motorcycle Rally, when in the Town of Sodus, someone stopped to turn left into a gas station, Altenburg hit the brakes and was ejected from his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
“You could be the most experienced rider but one little thing that it’s even your fault and I think in this situation, he was doing what he trained himself to do as a rider,” said Dayton.
Altenburg’s passenger and longtime partner, Christine Maki of Cheektowaga, was also ejected and is now in stable condition recovering at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. “She’s pretty much the same as he is, very outgoing,” said Dayton. “They did anything for anyone.”
Known to friends as “A.B.”, Altenburg had been a volunteer at South Line for more than 30 years. He actually started as a Junior Firefighter when he was a teenager.
Altenburg graduated from West Seneca East High School and was a NY Corrections Officer by trade. But at South Line, the brotherhood of volunteers are still trying to absorb what happened. “We’ll have a stress debriefing this evening which provides counseling and things for the guys and we’ll do whatever needs to be done. We take care of each other for sure,” said Dayton. “It’s definitely a tight house.”
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the crash. No charges have been filed. Funeral arrangements for Altenburg were not finalized on Monday.