Ohio Department Mourns Loss of Veteran

WELLINGTON -- Why did Allan "Buz" Anderson die?

The 32 members of the Wellington Fire Department were searching for the answer in seclusion Thursday night while trying to deal with the emotional trauma and grief of losing one of their own earlier in the day.

The 47-year-old Anderson, a veteran swift water rescue technician and diver, died Thursday afternoon while trying to rescue two teenagers clinging to a tree in the swollen waters of a tributary of the Black River, about a half mile north on Pitts Road.

Terry Mazzone of the Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative stood in for his friend Chief Robert Walker at a news conference Thursday night to talk about the day's events.

"The chief and the whole team are too upset to be here tonight," Mazzone said. "They are together, talking about the events of the day, going over what happened, why it happened; they're grieving and lending each other emotional support."

What the firefighters do know at this point is that Anderson entered the water twice in an attempt to reach the stranded teens and something went terribly wrong on his second attempt.

Anderson first entered the water from an inflatable boat brought in by the Wellington department. He secured a lifeline, but the current proved too swift for the lightweight boat and it, along with Anderson, was brought out of the water.

The department called the Findley State Park, which brought a powerboat to the swollen stream and eventually rescued the teens. But it was too late for Anderson.

Anderson had entered the water a second time, again with a safety line, but disappeared under the water. He emerged briefly before slipping under a second time.

"Water conditions rapidly deteriorated and he was overcome by the water's current," Mazzone said. "At that point, he was pulled to shore by department personnel using his attached safety line."

The exact cause of Anderson's death has yet to be determined. "We're awaiting a coroner's report," Mazzone said.

The teens were in the water for 35 minutes before being rescued by the Findley State Park boat. Mazzone said he didn't know how long Anderson was in the water before he was pulled out.

Firefighters from the area gathered at the firehouse in Wellington on Thursday night to offer their condolences and support.

Volunteers from the Oberlin Fire District remained at the Wellington station, ready to respond to any calls in place of their Wellington comrades.

"They'll be here for as long as they're needed. This has been a bad day for everybody," said Elyria Assistant Fire Chief Robert Dempsey, who was among firefighters from around the area at the Wellington station Thursday night.

Mazzone said Anderson and his wife, Julia, had four children. He did not know their ages or where Anderson was employed.

"Details are still sketchy. I'm sorry I don't know a lot myself at this point. Everyone is still very upset," Mazzone said.

Anderson had been a swift water rescue technician and rescue diver with the Wellington department for four years, but had about 15 years of experience, Mazzone said.

Anderson's death was the first fatality for the small volunteer department in 30 years and only the third in its 125 year history, Mazzone said.

"In fact," he said, "we were planning to celebrate the department's history next month. I don't think we will now."


Allan H. Anderson Jr., 47, volunteer firefighter Allan Howard “Buzz” Anderson Jr., 47, died Thursday, June 22, 2006, while trying to rescue two teenagers in flood waters on Pitts Road in Wellington. He was a 1977 graduate of Wellington High School and worked as a press operator for Tape Inc. in Wellington for 17 years. He was a member of the Wellington Eagles #2051 and the Buckeye Area Divers Club. He served as a volunteer firefighter and on the Rescue Dive Team. He enjoyed roller skating, boating, bowling, NASCAR, and spending time with family and friends. Survivors include his wife, Julie (nee Werdebaugh) Anderson; his father, Allan H. Anderson Sr., and his mother, Catherine Anderson, both of Nova; sons Joseph A., Joshua A., Jarred A. and Jacob A., all of Wellington; a grandchild; sisters Sharon McKenzie of Wellington, Caryn Riggs of Columbus, Ellan Seese of Sullivan; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral Information

Friends may call 1 to 3 and 5 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Wellington High School auditorium.

Services are 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Wellington High School auditorium, with Chaplain Ron Bryant and the Rev. William Hughes officiating.

Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery.

A memorial fund has been set up at Farmers Savings Bank, P.O. Box 438, Wellington, OH 44090. T.G. Cowling Funeral Home, Wellington, is handling arrangements.