Two PA Juniors and a friend with them at the time were found in their submerged car that went off the road into an icy pond while driving to the firehouse for a drill.
Some people here probably don't care or don't think they shouldn't have been involved at all anyway. And some will understand how this is just as bad as losing any other brother in the fire department, maybe worse, regardless of age or status. Having lost one of my explorers in June, I can feel their pain and it still hurts.
ZELIENOPLE, Pa. --
Two teenage volunteer firefighters who were reported missing after they didn't show up for a training drill for their small-town department died along with a friend when their SUV slid off a road and into an icy western Pennsylvania pond.
The bodies of firefighters Elijah Lunsford and Sam Bucci, both 18 and students at Seneca Valley High School along with the third victim, 17-year-old Trevor Barkley, were pulled from the pond Wednesday morning, Zelienpole Fire Chief Rob Reeb said.
Spencer Matthew, 18, a schoolmate and fellow volunteer firefighter in the three-stoplight town of Zelienople, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, said he went to school briefly Wednesday before leaving.
"Emotions around the school were all gloom and sadness," Matthew said.
Matthew said that he's been a member of the volunteer fire department since he was 14, and that Lunsford and Bucci joined after he brought them around in recent years.
Lunsford had been with the department for two years and Bucci for more than a year, Fire Chief Rob Reeb said. They were like sons to many of the 48 firefighters in the company, he said.
"Both the young men are an asset to the community," he said, speaking to reporters in the fire station's truck bay as two black wreaths hung outside and flags flew at half-staff.
Nearby, wire mesh shelving held the firefighters' boots, coats and other "turnout" gear. Heavy coats belonging to Lunsford and Bucci were laid over their boots on the ground, with one black ribbon each in front of their gear.
The Butler County coroner determined all three drowned. The cause of the crash was still under investigation Wednesday, but Miller said speeding did not appear to be a factor. Lunsford's family owned the Ford Explorer, but it wasn't immediately clear who was driving, he said.
"It appears there's some stones on the road and it may have lost control," Miller said. Snow coated the road Wednesday morning.
Lunsford and Bucci didn't show up for their weekly drill meeting on Tuesday night, leading worried colleagues and relatives to call around in an effort to find them. The fire department responded to a call early Wednesday of an overturned vehicle that police had found, and divers from a neighboring county recovered the bodies over the next several hours.
It wasn't clear why Barkley was with the two firefighters or where the three were headed. School officials didn't respond to requests for comment.
Zelienople has one of hundreds of junior firefighter programs nationwide, said Kimberly Ettinger, spokeswoman for the National Volunteer Fire Council. Bucci and Lunsford, as well as their classmate Matthew, became firefighters after joining the junior program.
Junior firefighters generally help with fundraising and non-emergency tasks at fire scenes - like serving refreshments and cleaning up after the fact - and also participate in training, so they're prepared to become firefighters when they turn 18, Ettinger said.
"Definitely, with the volunteer services, the culture of it, it really is like a family and people are really connected to it," Ettinger said.
"The volunteer service has such a strongly rooted history in our nation," she said. "A lot of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, for example, was a volunteer firefighter."
Matthew said the loss of his classmates and fellow firefighters will be a hard thing to overcome.
"I'm not going to lie," he said. "It's a hard thing, but we're all going to get through."
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01-28-2010, 04:56 PM #1
Two PA Junior FF's drown in car accident enroute to a drill
Last edited by nmfire; 01-28-2010 at 07:55 PM.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
01-28-2010, 05:20 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2007
what a shame. It could have happened no matter what they were driving to, but if they were headed to the drill at least they were going to something productive
01-28-2010, 05:59 PM #3
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
It is a sad day when any young people die. It is especially sad when kids that were trying to do service for their community die.
01-28-2010, 06:06 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jan 2010
01-28-2010, 07:49 PM #5
This is a very unfortunate event.
Rest in Peace Brothers.HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL
01-28-2010, 07:49 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
Rest in Peace Brothers.
The death of young people who are on the right path in life is always tragic.
I may be one of those who you believe doesn't care or doesn't believe they should have been there at all. Well, you would be wrong, my son was a junior member at our volly FD and it served him well in preparing him for full membership. My complaint has been, and continues to be, putting those juniors or explorers in harms way at real incidents.
Either way, the relevant issue here is a the families, the community, and the FD having to cope with the loss of so much potential.Crazy, but that's how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe it's not too late
To learn how to love, and forget how to hate
01-28-2010, 08:24 PM #7
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
The article posted didn't mention it, but one of the three was found outside of the vehicle about 10 feet from the embankment. They think he managed to escape the vehicle, but was overcome by the freezing water before he could get out of the water. Very sad day.
This area's had a rough couple of years. From what I read in a related news article, these kids' are their school districts 9th, 10th and 11th deaths of current students or recent graduates in the past 2-3 years. I forget the exact relation, but a 32 year old relative of 2 teachers in the district unexpectedly passed away last week also.
01-28-2010, 11:28 PM #8
01-29-2010, 02:39 PM #9
Further news from the police department reports some rocks in road combined with ice caused the SUV to roll over, hit a tree, and go into the pond. The two in the front seat were found still seatbelted in the vehicle. The back seat passenger appears to gotten out but was unable to get to shore before being overcome. They also stated that they were not speeding.
They got an approximate 3 mile location off their last hit on a cell phone tower before the phones went under water. A police officer searching the area noticed a piece of a tire sticking up out of the pond.
For those have never had to personally deal with losing a young person, it takes a toll on so many levels. In this case, in addition to the standard family and friends, you have the entire school of kids whether close friends or not, athletic teams, teachers, coaches, and school employees they were close to, and also the entire fire department now too. And multiply it by three.
When we lost one of our explorers in June, our explorers and firefighters were the pallbearers for his funeral and did an honor guard at his wake. I told the kids that they've just gone through what nobody their age ever should have to go through. And now this town has to do it three times.
Last edited by nmfire; 01-29-2010 at 03:03 PM.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
01-30-2010, 12:56 AM #10
Anytime a young life is lost it's a tragedy. Like mentioned before, especially so when they have a service attitude like these kids.Jason Knecht
Altoona Fire Dept.
IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!
01-30-2010, 02:18 AM #11
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
- Canuck Expat May be anywhere
Truly a tragedy. May they rest in peace and the Good Lord watch over their families and coleagues.
01-31-2010, 06:03 PM #12
Such a sad event... This will be a rough hill for the community to overcome. I will keep their families,friends,and fellow FF's in my prayers.
R.I.P. BrothersFirefighter/EMT 712
Gifford Fire And Rescue
6 month Probie
02-01-2010, 04:18 PM #13
- Join Date
- Aug 2005
Condolences and Blessing to the families which includes the fire department.
To the families be proud of the work they were participating in.
If you need anything I am sure their brothers at the station will be there for you.
To the firefighters, after time, talk through this. Do not hold this tragedy in. Take advantage of the counseling that is available to firefighters.
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