“I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me,
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property.
And if according to your will
I have to lose my life,
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.”
— From “The Firefighters Prayer,”
listed on the Seneca Area Fire Protection District’s Web site, http://safpd.org
By Melissa Dunson
SENECA, Mo. — Tyler Casey, 21, did not survive his heroism.
The Seneca Area Fire Protection District volunteer firefighter died at 2 p.m. Monday of injuries he suffered while trying to warn Newton County residents of the tornado he saw coming right for them.
Casey was storm-spotting Saturday at Missouri Highway 43 and Iris Road in Newton County, according to Andy Nimmo, Redings Mill fire chief and spokesman for the Seneca Area Fire Protection District in this matter.
As the storm worsened, Nimmo said, Casey was officially dispatched to watch for tornadoes. When he saw the tornado coming, Casey warned at least three people to seek shelter — someone changing a tire along the side of the road and two people in a nearby home. Nimmo said all three of those people escaped unharmed, but Casey never got out of the area before the storm hit.
Casey was taken to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin and was put on life support Saturday.
Nimmo said that when Casey saw the tornado coming, he made a decision to risk his own life for others. He could have gotten out of the storm’s path and
lived, but instead, Nimmo said, he did what every great firefighter would: He spent those extra minutes trying to save someone else’s life.
“I don’t even know how to describe what he did. It goes beyond a hero,” Nimmo said. “He gave his life to help other people.”
The intersection of Highway 43 and Iris Road was still busy Monday, but it was with emergency vehicles and backhoes, rather than brides-to-be looking for wedding dresses or farmers buying feed at the corner shops that were destroyed during the storm.
That corner now is twisted lumber and mangled vehicles. Hundred-year-old trees were uprooted, crushing cars and homes in their paths.
Casey has a 2-year-old daughter, and his fiancee is expecting a child, Nimmo said.
Casey had been a volunteer firefighter with the Seneca Area Fire Protection District for the past three years. Nimmo said there are about 20 other volunteer firefighters with the district. Casey also worked at Carlin Machine Shop in Seneca.
Nimmo said Casey is considered to have died in the line of duty.
Gov. Matt Blunt, who was in Newton County on Monday, ordered flags at all state buildings in Newton, Jasper and Barry counties to be flown at half-staff until dusk the day of Casey’s funeral. Funeral arrangements are pending.
‘But we do’
“I’ve already had people saying that (Tyler Casey) shouldn’t have been out there, but I say (firefighters) shouldn’t run into burning buildings either, but we do. What we try to do is help other people. (Casey) did his job.”
— Andy Nimmo, Redings Mill fire chief