Co-workers mourn loss of UFA firefighter killed in wreck
PARLEYS CANYON — Few men can boast they'd forgo a six-figure salary to work 24-hour shifts as a firefighter.
Even fewer could probably say they gave up work as a corporate attorney because they wanted to help people.
But that's what Bruce McGowan was like.
The 45-year-old man was described as a dedicated firefighter and a man who went against the grain to do what he thought was right.
His admirable personality made it all the more difficult to say goodbye to the four-year veteran of Unified Fire Authority when he was killed in a rollover accident in Parleys Canyon on Saturday night.
Reynolds explained how he learned more from McGowan than the firefighter learned from him.
McGowan believed in "living life to the fullest," Reynolds said.
So much so that he ran a marathon in Colorado with just one day of training.
McGowan had always stayed in shape, but even Taylor was surprised when he walked in on McGowan running on a treadmill and his coworker explained he was getting ready to run a marathon…the next day.
See all 3 photos | Click to enlarge
Department of Public Safety
Accident scene along I-80 in Parleys Canyon where a man died from injuries Saturday evening.
"He decided the day before he would train for it," Taylor recalled. "And he decided he would pick one of the hardest ones, the Pikes Peak Marathon. People don't just get up and run a marathon. But he did."
UFA members arrived at the accident scene with broken hearts, knowing that McGowan was the victim.
"I've been training recruits for years," Reynolds said. "I've trained thousands of firefighters but he sticks out."
Officials are still investigating the accident and the driver of the Jeep, who they declined to identify, has not been cited. The Jeep's driver had been drinking alcohol but not enough to charge him with driving under the influence, Moren said. Troopers also drew blood from the driver for toxicology tests.
"Preliminary indications (for why the Jeep crossed into the opposite lanes) lead investigators to believe it was more likely operator error and not anything wrong with the vehicle," Hyer said.
Troopers restated the need for motorists to slow down when driving in Parley's Canyon in light of Saturday's tragic accident.
"He definitely taught me to live life to its fullest. Life is short," Reynolds said. "He marched to the beat of a different drummer, but it was for the common good."
McGowan was heading home after a partial shift at the Magna station when the accident occurred. He was heading east on I-80 through Parleys Canyon just after 8:30 p.m. when a westbound Jeep Cherokee crossed over the median into the eastbound lanes and collided with McGowan's vehicle in the Lamb's Canyon area. The driver of the Jeep, a man in his early 20s from the Salt Lake Valley area, suffered minor injuries, but McGowan died at the scene.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the accident, but Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman Bryan Hyer said investigators believe the driver of the Jeep was going about 80 mph.
Friends and co-workers of McGowan were in shock and mourning Sunday, trying to come to terms with the loss of a man who gave his life to help others.
"I haven't had the chance to really process it since the phone call (Saturday) night," said UFA Battalion Chief Greg Reynolds, who was McGowan's training officer when he went through training six years ago.
McGowan, who lived in Midway with his wife and two young children, was well-liked and well-respected among UFA fire crew members and officials. But according to Reynolds, he was more than that.
The Midway man lived on a beach in Mexico for two months and even worked on a shrimp boat for a while. And despite a law degree and several years working as a corporate attorney, McGowan gave up the career because "he wanted to give back."
"He wanted to be a fireman. He thought that was a much more noble profession than being an attorney," Reynolds said. "He thought that some attorneys could be dirt bags and that he wasn't really helping people. He wanted to give back."
Coworkers said McGowan could also be a real character.
UFA Capt. Brad Taylor shared an experience when he ordered McGowan a new nametag and accidentally ordered it for "McCowman."
"They sent it out as Bruce McCowman and Bruce took the fall for it," Taylor said. "He wasn't in too much trouble for it and laughed about the error. And whenever we worked together, he would wear that nametag."
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09-13-2010, 03:21 PM #1
UFA (Utah ) Firefighter Killed in accidentFront line since 1983 and still going strong
09-15-2010, 08:00 PM #2
Bruce Edward McGowan
7/10/1965 – 9/11/2010
Bruce Edward McGowan, 45, died in an automobile accident on Saturday, September 11, 2010. He left his wife, Heidi, and two daughters, aged 5 and 3. Bruce is also survived by 12 brothers and sisters: Joan, Blair, Mark, Jim, Mike, Maryjo, Emma, John, Peter, Margaret, Paul, and Jean, their spouses and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Blair and Jean McGowan.
Bruce grew up in Jackson, Michigan, attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Madrid, Spain, and later earned a law degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He has lived in Park City and Midway for the last 20 years.
In second grade, Bruce got into a playground fight with Matt Olding. While the winner-loser of that fight has been much debated over the years, the important result was that Bruce formed a close friendship with Matt that persists to this day. Even more significant was the fact that this friendship led Bruce, in later years, to become reacquanted with Matt's sister, Heidi -- who was just in diapers during the initial fight. At the time when they reaquainted, twenty years later, Matt told Bruce, "Keep your hands off my sister." This was one of many occasions when Bruce's selective hearing loss kicked in. Heidi and Bruce have now been married for 8 years, have travelled extensively, and are totally devoted to their little girls. Bruce's fortune was further improved as he became part of Heidi's large and loving family, which includes her father, Bob Olding and mother Judy Caldwell, Judy's husband David, and Heidi's siblings, Robert, Liz, Matt, Mike, and Steff.
Bruce worked interesting and varied jobs during his life. He commercially fished in Alaska for many years. He fished for brine shrimp on the Great Salt Lake. He worked in restaurants in Park City to support his skiing habit. He hiked and climbed the mountains of this region, as well as travelling the world, including a notable visit to Venezuala, during which a revolution broke out -- a development for which he denied all responsibility, although he was deported at gunpoint by the army. He and Heidi also trekked in Nepal and visited other Central American countries -- none of which coincided with any coups or revolutions.
For the last six years, Bruce has been a firefighter/paramedic with the Unified Fire Authority. He was inspired to pursue this career by his friend, Steve Briley, a West Valley City firefighter and close friend. But this wasn't just a job; it was one more family. Bruce's paramedic partner, Jeremy Robertson, became like another brother to Bruce. He and many other coworkers looked forward to their shifts with Bruce -- his humor, willingness to help without being asked to do so, and culinary expertise made the work day a joy. At the same time, Bruce was deadly serious about his role as a paramedic, and he found great satisfaction in helping with the sick and injured.
Bruce's infectious joy and energy filled any room he entered. That infection will not end with his passing. His hand gestures, his wordplays, his are-you-seriously-getting-upset-about-that facial expressions have become part of the vocabulary of his family and friends.
Bruce's passing will leave a huge hole in the lives of one and all.
A fund has been established for Bruce's girls. In lue of flowers the family has requested contributions be made to the "The Bruce McGowan Memorial Trust" for the support of his wife and two daughters. This can be done at any branch of Chase Bank. More information on this can be found at the Bruce McGowan link on the Unified Fire Authority website: http://www.unifiedfire.org
A gathering to celebrate Bruce's life will be held at Wasatch State Park in Midway, Utah on Friday, September 17, 2010 at 10:00 AM. All participants should park at 800 N River Road in Midway. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Wasatch Lawn Mortuary.Front line since 1983 and still going strong
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