A heroic firefighter who rushed to the scene of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York died last week from a cancer that has been directly linked to working at Ground Zero.

Brian J. Masterson, a native of Lissavaddy, Co. Longford, tirelessly worked at the scene of the 2001 attack on September 11 and for months afterwards. The 61-year-old father of three passed away on Sunday, Jan 22, from esophageal cancer, which has been linked to being exposed to toxic fumes at the scene of the attack, the Irish Mirror reports.

Masterson’s funeral was held on Friday in Walden, New York.

Claudia E. Thomas, Founder of the 9/11 Rescue Workers and Friends Forum Group, said: “9/11 FDNY Responder Brian Masterson was the Captain of his soul and of the hearts of those who knew him. A member of Engine 93 Ladder 45 Battalion 13 in Washington Heights, and later Marine 9 (Fireboat II).

“His life was dedicated to the job he loved and started out in back in 1990 and survived several life threatening emergencies.

9/11 #FDNY Brian Masterson was the "Captain of his Soul .." Died of 9/11 related Cancer 1-22-2017 #Ireland Remembers https://t.co/lKwjpLQj0q

— 9/11 Rescuer (@911Advocate) January 27, 2017

“But such is the metal of one like Brian, who passed January 22, 2017, from related cancer, age 61. ‘Fair winds and following seas’ brother!”

James Slevin, President of the Unified Fire Authority, said that 124 firefighters have died in the 15 years since the attacks.

He said: “As a result of the 9-11 attacks on our nation, our New York City Firefighters have been getting sick and dying in high numbers due to cancers and other diseases caused by breathing the toxic air at the World Trade Center.

“The deaths of Ret. FF. Brian Masterson and FF. Kevin Rooney are unfortunate reminders that New York City Firefighters and other first responders continue to suffer from the aftermaths of 9-11.

“More than 15 years after the tragic event, 124 firefighters and fire officers have passed away due to 9-11-related illnesses.”

Masterson, who was an avid golfer and runner, is survived by his wife Mary, daughters Barbara and Shanon Masterson, son Joseph Masterson, granddaughter Sienna and extended family.

His nephew Christopher Ferry spoke to The Longford Leader about his uncle’s illness.

He said: “Unfortunately, my uncle Brian was diagnosed with esophageal cancer two years ago as a result.

“The number of firefighters and other first responders being diagnosed with cancer as a direct result of working so many days at the site of the twin towers has been constantly growing to this very day.

“My uncle fought very hard for two years overcoming the odds, and died on Sunday night with his family by his side.”