Except for his girlfriend, everyone else mentioned in this article I know and have served with at LPFD. I just can’t get over this tragic death.
Fallen volunteer remembered for dedication to job; officials explore malfunction
BY KARA RHODES
Published: April 10.
Erie firefighter and Lawrence Park Fire Department deputy chief Michael D. Crotty, who died at the scene of a fire in Harborcreek Township on April 8, 2008.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
There was supposed to be a career, a wedding and years of camaraderie that comes with being a firefighter with the city of Erie.
Michael D. Crotty was supposed to have a future.
“He was a rising star,” said Mike Rinn, Crotty’s cousin and a retired captain from the Erie Bureau of Fire. “He had that drive. He always knew what he wanted to do. He was the next generation of firefighter in our family.
On Wednesday, the day after the 24-year-old Crotty died from injuries he suffered at a fire scene, Rinn joined Crotty’s family, friends and fellow firefighters to remember him at the brick firehouse in downtown Lawrence Park Township.
Crotty died after being struck by a piece of fire equipment that weighed at least 100 pounds, witnesses said. The equipment — called a ladder pipe — somehow separated from the Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department’s fully extended aerial ladder. The force of water pressure sent the ladder pipe flying, and witnesses said the pipe struck Crotty in the back.
The accident happened while Crotty was on the scene of a blaze that had broken out in wooden and plastic pallets at Port Erie Plastics, 909 Troupe Road in Harborcreek Township.
Crotty was pronounced dead at Hamot Medical Center at 4:56 p.m. Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook said Crotty died of an accidental blow to the head.
Crotty’s brother, Jim Crotty, also a volunteer firefighter with Lawrence Park, was at the firehouse Wednesday to find solace in one of his brother’s favorite places.
“I’m the bigger brother but I learned hard work, dedication, commitment, and passion from him,” said Jim Crotty, 29. “I really did.
The two grew up spending a lot of time around the Lawrence Park firehouse, 4102 Main St. Their uncles were longtime volunteer firefighters for the company. Their father, David Crotty, is the current president.
Mike Crotty had dreamed of being a professional firefighter from the time he was in junior high, his brother said. He achieved that goal four months ago, when he was assigned to Engine 6, 1740 W. 26th St.
He was the fifth-generation firefighter to serve the Erie Bureau of Fire in his family, which includes relatives from the Quinlan, Rinn, and Crotty families. Mike Rinn said Crotty was the ninth member of the three families to have served with the bureau.
“We were very honored to have him,” Erie Fire Chief Tony Pol said.
Crotty became the first firefighter to die while responding to an emergency since Mark Wunch’s drowning death in May 1990. Wunch, 31, who served with the Lake Shore Fire Co., died while trying to save anglers whose boat had capsized in Lake Erie.
Pennsylvania State Police investigators and fire officials would not discuss Wednesday how or why the equipment malfunction occurred at Port Erie Plastics.
Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk, whose office is supervising the investigation, said it will be at least Monday before details of the accident are released.
“There needs to be a thorough investigation into what happened,” Foulk said.
State police fire marshals were at the scene of the accident Wednesday, attempting to pinpoint the cause of a fire. No cause has yet been released.
Port Erie Plastics President John Johnson said he had no idea what sparked the blaze, which lasted about 30 minutes and sent heavy black smoke spiraling into the sky starting at about 4 p.m. Tuesday. The smoke could be seen from several miles away.
Lawrence Park was one of several departments called to the scene.
Crotty parked his red truck at the fire hall and rode to the scene in Lawrence Park’s aerial truck.
Once there, he took command of the scene.
His girlfriend of five months, Danielle Jackson, showed up a short time later. She’s also a volunteer firefighter with the department. Her mother, Kathy Jackson, is a Lawrence Park commissioner.
Danielle Jackson saw the accident happen.
“It hit him straight in the back, ” she said.
Jackson joined Jim Crotty and other firefighters at the fire station Wednesday to mourn.
She wore her boyfriend’s knit hat. She worked on a blanket she had been making him for his 25th birthday, which would have been Monday. She said she and Crotty had talked about marriage. Rinn said Crotty had recently confided to his father that he hoped to get engaged.
“I don’t even know what to do, ” Danielle Jackson said, fighting tears. “He was the most perfect person ever. He wanted to be so much. He wanted to be chief of Erie. He had just told me, ‘I got the perfect job, and I’ve got the perfect girl. Life couldn’t be better.
Jim Crotty, Danielle Jackson, and others who knew Crotty remembered him for his dedication to firefighting.
“Even in junior high, he wanted to do this for a profession, and the day he graduated, he had his mind made up, ” Jim Crotty said.
When Mike Crotty came to his cousin for advice on how to get a job with the Erie Bureau of Fire, Mike Rinn advised him to join the Air Force. Being a veteran would earn him important points when it came time to apply for a job as a firefighter, Rinn told him.
Crotty spent the next three years in Alaska, serving as a paramedic at Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage. He also volunteered at a nearby fire department there, Rinn said.
He returned to Erie in August and immediately applied for a job with the Erie Bureau of Fire. He was hired in January, assigned to Engine 6.
“It was his lifelong dream to work for the Erie fire department, ” said Pol, the fire chief. “He had such an energy and passion for the job.
That energy and passion will be hard to replace in Lawrence Park as well, said Lawrence Park Chief Dan Mentley.
“Mike was a huge part of this department, ” Mentley said. “His loss is going to be felt here for a long time. Mike was just an exceptional person.
Outside the firehouse in Lawrence Park, black bunting hung, a public expression of mourning for a lost firefighter.
Inside, someone had written a more private message on a dry erase board.
“Goodbye, Mikey, ” it said. “We miss you.
GUEST BOOK: Share your condolences with the Michael Crotty’s friends and family. Post your message in our online guest book.
VIDEO: Friends and family remember Michael Crotty as a “rising star.
http://www. goerie. com/video/0409crotty
VIDEO: Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott holds a press conference about the incident.
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