SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. – When a firefighter is involved in a crash while responding, sometimes they and their colleagues don’t think about the impact on civilians, their family and friends.
Pa. Fire Commissioner Ed Mann broke down Friday morning while reading an e-mail from the wife of a man seriously injured when his van was struck by a volunteer firefighter responding to a crash.
Personnel attending the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association meeting also were visibly moved as Mann read the detailed message. He omitted the names of the people involved as he said he hasn’t yet received permission.
The woman detailed the crash, and disputed media reports that her husband was in good condition. She said her husband was seriously injured by “your hero firefighter” who drove recklessly without respect to others on the road.
Her husband suffered a fractured leg and a broken ankle among other injuries including cuts and bruises all over his body. He has undergone numerous surgeries including one lasting seven-and-a-half hours to repair multiple crushed bones.
“Is this the type of behavior you wish to encourage,” she wrote, adding that it wasn’t the 20-year-old’s first crash while responding to call.
Since both legs were affected, the man won’t be able to walk anytime soon. He won’t be tending to his roses, playing with his grandchildren or working with his homing pigeons. His life, she said, isn’t going to be the same “because of your hero.”
Mann hesitated briefly before continuing to read. When she told him that the firefighter was killed, he cried.
The woman asked Mann “reconsider the funeral for your hero…save it for a volunteer who deserves it…”
Mann said it took him several days to respond, and struggled. What words could he come up with to reflect what he was feeling?
He apologized for her husband’s injuries, and the lasting effects it will have on their lives. He also asked her permission to share her story so others will learn.
He added that he would not offer an excuse. There is none.
As a volunteer fire chief, Mann said he also read the woman's e-mail to his crew.
He also urged CVVFA members to take the message back to their departments.