HomeAmerican EntertainmentTim Donnelly, ‘Emergency!’ Actor, Dead at 77

Tim Donnelly, ‘Emergency!’ Actor, Dead at 77

by Leanne Stahulak
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Tim Donnelly, best known for his iconic role as firefighter Chet Kelly on NBC’s “Emergency!”, died last week at 77 years old.

Donnelly’s older brother, Dennis Donnelly, told “The Hollywood Reporter” that he died last Friday, Sept. 17 due to complications from surgery. He was in his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Tim Donnelly was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 3, 1944, into an entertainment-centered family. His brother Dennis directed the “Charlie’s Angels” TV show and other hit series. His father, Paul Donnelly, worked as the production vice president at Universal Pictures. And his mother Eileen was the daughter of iconic actor Pat O’Malley.

At just 13 years old, Donnelly made his own acting debut in 1957’s “Baby Face Nelson.” His older brother got him acting gigs on the shows he directed too, including “Hawaii Five-O,” “Project U.F.O.,” “Vega$,” and “The A-Team.”

Before joining the “Emergency!” cast in 1972, Donnelly landed solid roles on shows like “Dragnet 1967” and “Adam-12.” But the NBC action-comedy launched his career, with Tim Donnelly starring in 122 episodes of the show across six years.

“Emergency!” follows the crew of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51. Tim Donnelly played Fireman Chet Kelly, a funny character who loved doing practical jokes.

After his prominent role on “Emergency!”, Donnelly also starred in the 1978 horror film “The Toolbox Murders” as Detective Jamison. His last acting role, per IMDb, was in an episode of the show “The A-Team,” which his brother directed.

Fans Honor Actor Tim Donnelly with Special Social Media Tributes

When the news broke about Tim Donnelly’s death, several fans took to Twitter to mourn the loss of the legendary actor.

The Los Angeles County Fire Museum even honored the Fireman Chet Kelly actor with a special message. “It is with deep sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our friend, Tim Donnelly aka Chet Kelly. Tim is survived by his daughter, Ashley, two grandsons, his sister Kathleen and his brother Dennis.”

Popular channel MeTV also tributed the star, dedicating an airing of one of his “Dragnet” episodes to Donnelly earlier this morning.

“The prankster of Station 51 passed away at the age of 77. Watch his fan-favorite episode of Dragnet “The Big High,” Thursday at 6A | 5C. MeTV,” the channel tweeted.

And other fans who appreciated watching Tim Donnelly in his shows and films also shared their grief.

“Just saw that Tim Donnelly who played Chet on “Emergency!” has died. While technically long before my time, as a teen I watched the show on reruns in the very early hours of the morning, years before I decided to be a paramedic. RIP,” wrote Twitter user Matthew Harris.

“Just learned of the passing of Tim Donnelly. Emergency was & still is one of my favorite shows. Chet was the sarcastic & funny prankster of the station. May #TimRIP. R.I.P. Tim Donnelly, funny fireman Chet Kelly on Emergency!” another fan named Mulligan Matt tweeted.

“I’m crushed. Big fan of Emergency, and of course Tim Donnelly also stars in one of my favorite horror films, The Toolbox Murders. Wow, I just adore him. RIP,” said fan Amanda Reyes.