Former Candian Fire Chief Killed in Freak Accident in New York

Aug. 4, 2008
The former fire chief at the Ottawa International Airport, was towing an antique fire truck while returning to his Montreal-area home following a weekend gathering in Syracuse.

OGDENSBURG, N.Y. -- A Canadian man electrocuted Sunday in a freak accident while fixing a flat tire on an antique fire truck near the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge has been identified.

Pierre Surprenant, 51, of Quebec, and state police Trooper Shawn W. Snow, 47, apparently were killed instantly when the fire truck's ladder touched a live electrical wire, carrying a current through the truck, state police said.

According to The Ottawa Citizen, Surprenant, the former fire chief at the Ottawa International Airport, was returning to his Montreal-area home following a weekend gathering in Syracuse to mark the 50th anniversary of The Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America.

He had been teaching firefighting at a school in the Montreal area for the past several months. Society members collect and restore old fire fighting vehicles and equipment.

Will Brooks, president of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, said Mr. Surprenant was working to restore the large vehicle, a 1960 Pierre Thibault Ltd. ladder truck.

He was towing a 1909 Model T Ford, dressed as a chief's car, that had once been owned by the Bytown Fire Brigade.

"He was very excited about the weekend, because it was the first time he'd shown the vehicle outside Quebec," Mr. Brooks said. "We're waiting to find out just what happened.

"Pierre was very safety-conscious and we can't understand how this occurred. Perhaps it was dark and he couldn't see the wires, we just don't know."

"He was a great guy," David M. Sheen, the foundation's Ontario representative, said Monday in a phone interview from Toronto. "He loved going to all these events and showing off his truck. He was proud to display and promote the foundation. Our hearts go out to his family and to the family of the state trooper."

Trooper Snow was a 19-year veteran of the force and was assigned to the commercial vehicle enforcement unit. He was responsible for inspecting trucks that crossed the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge or were traveling area roadways.

"He was a valuable member of the state police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Detail," Maj. Richard C. Smith Jr., commander of state police Troop B in Ray Brook, said Monday. "He was considered one of the nicest people you would ever meet, including outside his state police duties."

The incident occurred about 4:45 p.m. Sunday when Ogdensburg city police received a call about a fire truck on fire with people underneath it near the international bridge.

The fire truck heading to Canada was towing a trailer with an antique fire chief's car when the truck had a flat tire on the road approaching the bridge, police said. Trooper Snow stopped to help replace the flat tire.

The trooper was under the truck fixing the tire while Mr. Surprenant was extending the truck's ladder to redistribute the weight away from the flat right rear tire. When the ladder hit a live wire, both men were killed, police said.

Republished with permission of The Watertown Daily Times.

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