Rookie fireman mourned

By Susan Jacobson | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted August 6, 2002

KISSIMMEE -- About 2,700 friends, family and fellow firefighters bid farewell Monday to Osceola County rookie Dallas Begg, who died in a training accident last week along with fire Lt. John Mickel.

David Iannelli, a volunteer with the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in New York City, eulogized Begg as someone who made a good name for himself with people and with God.

Two of the things he wanted most were to become a firefighter and win the hand of his sweetheart, Rachel, whom he married in March.

"He was very focused and determined and goal-oriented," Iannelli said. "When he set his mind to something, it generally got done."

Osceola fire Lt. Tracy Stubbs read a letter from Begg's widow, thanking firefighters and the community for their support and expressing a sad camaraderie with Carlotta Mickel, the lieutenant's widow.

The letter also recalled Begg's sense of humor and imagined how pleased and surprised he would have been to see how many people came to say goodbye to him.

"He would say, 'Yeah, I'm the man,' " Stubbs read as some people laughed and others sobbed quietly.

So many people wanted to pay their respects that the 2,100-seat auditorium overflowed and about 600 people listened in another room via loudspeakers.

Mickel's parents and widow attended the service at the former Tupperware auditorium. Mickel's funeral Saturday also drew a huge crowd.

Begg, who would have turned 21 next month, started work July 22 and died eight days later. He and Mickel were the first firefighters to enter an abandoned building where a fire had been lighted to teach search-and-rescue techniques.

Begg's instructor at Central Florida Fire Academy mourned his first student to die in the line of duty.

"We lost a bright, shining star when we lost Dallas," Lawrence MacPhee said. "He had what it took to do the job: heart, desire and the love of being a firefighter."

Flowers and pictures of Begg and his family surrounded his casket, which was draped with a spray of red carnations. On each side was a shadow box containing a shirt from his uniform, drumsticks -- he played in a band -- and other mementos.

Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and Dominick Lanza, president of the Osceola County Professional Firefighters Local 3284, hugged Rachel Begg and presented her with the IAFF's gold medal of honor.

After the service, pallbearers from Begg's training class hoisted the blue casket to their shoulders and slowly left the auditorium. On the way, they paused before Rachel Begg and Osceola fire Chief Don Adams, who escorted her.

Orange County firefighter Eric DePoto trailed the procession holding Begg's yellow firefighter's hat, which was placed on the front seat of Engine 93 on the way to the cemetery.

Bagpipes played, and firefighters from across Florida saluted as the casket was lifted into the back of the engine, which had a black wreath on the front and black swaths of cloth on the sides.

Begg was buried at Osceola Memory Gardens.

Susan Jacobson can be reached at sjacobson@orlandosentinel.com or 407-931-5946.
PHOTO
ED SACKETT/ORLANDO SENTINEL