Photo credit: Volusia County Fire Services
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. --
A Volusia County firefighter was killed by a fallen tree during a training exercise. John Curry was a 30-year-old firefighter with a wife and two children.
Firefighters were practicing with chainsaws when a tree fell on top of Curry. There was no fire and no smoke involved.
The firefighter was out in the thick brush and trees that grow on the training property. Curry was training for wildfires and, as part of that, cutting down trees when a pine tree fell on top of him. Emergency responders raced to the county fire training center, but there was nothing they could do to save Curry.
The DeLand husband and father of two died on the spot in the woods around the training center where he was practicing with the elite Firewalker Wildland Team.
"When you first hear of it you think, as you probably do, how does something like that happen? How could it happen?" said County Fire Chief Jim Tauber.
The team had started its morning in the classroom on the grounds and then moved into the woods using chainsaws to take down trees. The tree that hit Curry was big, Tauber said, but even after being on the scene he couldn't tell how the accident happened.
Sheriff investigators and the State Fire Marshal's Office looked into the accident Tuesday while firefighters started to cope with losing somebody they considered family.
"Somebody will be with his family. And we're all together. My phone's ringing off the hook. All the station phone's ringing. Everybody's talking to each other," said firefighter Ken Girlardo.
Grief counselors were called to the scene and the chief said the loss and subsequent investigation will have a significant impact on the department.
"We're going to learn from it, get better from it, get stronger from it and make sure this event makes us better and doesn't harm us any more than it has," Tauber said.
Curry had only been a member of the department for 10 months.
Tuesday's accident was the first time anyone had ever died at the training center near Daytona Beach. It was also the most serious incident involving Central Florida firefighters in years.
The last major incident was in 2002 in Osceola County. Firefighters John Mickel and Dallas Begg were killed during a training exercise at the former Florida Bible College when the ceiling above them collapsed.
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Visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30 at Allen-Summerhill Funeral Home, DeLand.
Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Stetson Baptist Church, DeLand, with Pastor James Knox and the Rev. Howard Cox officiating. Burial will be at Oakdale Cemetery.