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Thread: Second Nebraska Firefighter Dies from Injuries

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    Second Nebraska Firefighter Dies from Injuries

    Updated: 02-18-2004 09:19:06 AM

    Second Nebraska Firefighter Dies from Injuries


    Sarah Schulz
    Reprinted with Permission, The Grand Island Independant

    WOOD RIVER -- The second Wood River volunteer firefighter injured in Saturday's blaze has died from his injuries.

    Capt. Kenny Woitalewicz died around 1:30 p.m. today at St. Francis Medical Center.

    He is survived by his wife, Melissa, and two young sons.

    Woitalewicz and fellow volunteer Capt. Robert "Bobby" Heminger, 39, were injured Saturday morning when they responded to a house fire at 211 W. 12th St. in Wood River.

    Heminger died Sunday morning at St. Francis, and one of the home's residents, Anna M. "Annie" Carrig, 73, was declared dead at the scene Saturday morning.

    Woitalewicz and Heminger had entered the home to rescue Carrig when part of the structure collapsed on them.

    Memorial Service & Donation Information
    A joint memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, at Wood River High School. Departments attending with apparatus should call (308)390-8535. Uniformed firefighters and departments with apparatus will assemble at the intersection of Hwy. 30, facing northbound on Hwy. 11. The procession to the cemetery is about three miles from the high school.
    Donations for the families of Bobby Heminger and Kenny Woitalewicz can be sent in care of the Wood River Firefighters' Family Relief Fund at the Heritage Bank, 110 E. Ninth St., Wood River, NE 68883.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=26307

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    LODD Firefighters Bob Heminger and Kenny Woitalewicz

    Updated: 02-19-2004 12:22:31 AM

    Second Nebraska Firefighter Dies from Injuries

    Wood River Fire Department Memorial
    http://www.woodriverfire.com/

    Sarah Schulz and Gretchen Fowler
    Reprinted with Permission, The Grand Island Independant

    WOOD RIVER -- The second Wood River volunteer firefighter injured in Saturday's blaze has died from his injuries, and the fire has been ruled an accident by the state fire marshal.

    Capt. Kenny Woitalewicz, 38, died around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Francis Medical Center. He is survived by his wife, Melissa, and two young sons.

    Wood River Fire Chief Roger Derr formally announced the news of Woitalewicz's passing during a 4:30 p.m. press conference at the Wood River Fire Hall. The fire hall shares space with the Wood River city offices on Main Street, both of which bore solemn signs that the community was in a collective state of grief.

    A black wreath and draped black fabric have adorned the exterior of the brick building since Monday. The anything-but-festive decorations are a reminder, though one is not needed, of Saturday's events.

    Woitalewicz and fellow volunteer Capt. Robert "Bobby" Heminger, 39, were injured Saturday morning when they responded to a house fire at 211 W. 12th St. in Wood River.

    Heminger died Sunday at St. Francis, and one of the home's residents, Anna M. "Annie" Carrig, 73, was declared dead at the scene Saturday morning.

    "This is going to be tough to take," Derr said as he spoke to members of the media only hours after Woitalewicz's passing.

    At that time, Derr said he still didn't know what had caused the fire.

    Ray Nance, a public information officer with the state fire marshal's office, told The Independent during an interview by telephone that the fire was ruled an accident, but the cause will not be released by the state fire marshal's office. An exact reason for the decision was not given.

    Nance issued a press release about the fire with the following information:

    Early Saturday morning, Carrig's husband, Raymond Carrig, was awakened by the sound of a smoke alarm. He went to check on the cause of the alarm and found his wife standing in the living room near a small fire on the couch.

    He attempted to extinguish the blaze, but after a couple of attempts, he determined that the couch needed to be removed from the home. However, the couch became wedged in the doorway, and he was unable to get back inside, where his wife was standing.

    At 6:33 a.m., the Grand Island 911 Center received a call about a structure fire at the Carrigs' home, which is owned by Wilbur McComber. The call came from a person who had driven by the residence. The reporting party saw Mr. Carrig standing in his yard wearing only his pajamas.

    Wood River and Cairo fire departments arrived at the scene at 6:40 a.m. At 6:51 a.m., the state fire marshal's office received a call to respond to the scene due to a suspected fatality.

    At 7:14 a.m., it was reported that Heminger and Woitalewicz were trapped inside the home. They had entered the home to conduct a search but backed out to renew their air supply. They re-entered the home to continue the search and were in the area of the living room, which had been added on between the home and the garage, Nance said.

    According to Nance's press release, the fire and the weight of 2 to 3 inches of ice on the roof caused the roof to collapse on the firefighters. The men were taken to St. Francis by 7:40 a.m.

    Memorial Service & Donation Information
    A joint memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, at Wood River High School. Departments attending with apparatus should call (308)390-8535. Uniformed firefighters and departments with apparatus will assemble at the intersection of Hwy. 30, facing northbound on Hwy. 11, and should be in place by noon. Signs and assistance will be available. The procession to the cemetery is about three miles from the high school.
    Donations for the families of Bobby Heminger and Kenny Woitalewicz can be sent in care of the Wood River Firefighters' Family Relief Fund at the Heritage Bank, 110 E. Ninth St., Wood River, NE 68883.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=26307

    Wood River Fire Department
    http://www.woodriverfire.com/
    Photos below

    Bob Heminger and Kenny Woitalewicz

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    Final Call Home for Heroic Nebraska Firefighters

    Updated: 02-20-2004 10:44:25 AM

    Final Call Home for Heroic Nebraska Firefighters
    Small-town heroes are given a big-time goodbye


    GRETCHEN FOWLER
    Courtesy of The Grand Island Independant

    WOOD RIVER -- Leading more than 125 emergency vehicles in a procession to the Wood River Cemetery on Thursday, Capts. Robert Heminger and Kenny Woitalewicz took one final ride on Wood River Engine No. 30.

    Firefighters, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers from across the state and beyond convened on the town of 1,200 people to show their respect to the two men who gave their lives in an attempt to save another.

    A roof collapsed on Heminger and Woitalewicz early Saturday morning at a house fire in Wood River. They were performing a search and rescue for 73-year-old Anna M. Carrig of 211 W. 12th St. when the accident occurred.

    Carrig was pronounced dead at the scene. Heminger died on Sunday at St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island as a result of his injuries, and Woitalewicz lost his battle on Tuesday at St. Francis.

    More than 1,800 people filled the Wood River Rural High School gym for Thursday's combined funeral service for the two volunteer firefighters. Even more people were seated in the school's commons area and at a community building nearby, where the service was telecast on a large screen.

    As bagpipes played, Wood River firefighters accompanied the flag-draped coffins to the west end of the gym. Uniformed guards were posted at each end of the coffins, which sat in front of Heminger's and Woitalewicz's wives and children.

    Heminger is survived by his wife, Eva, a son, Jonathan, and a daughter, Lindsay. Woitalewicz is survived by his wife, Melissa, and two sons, Matthew and Ryan.

    "If we had the love in the world that we have here now," the Rev. Tom Ryan said as he looked out into the crowded gymnasium, "we wouldn't have war."

    Uniformed firefighters, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers came from nearby communities such as Dannebrog, Cairo and St. Paul. Others in Nebraska uniforms came from as far away as Plattsmouth, Omaha and McCook.

    "It seems the hardest thing in life is to lose somebody you dearly love," the Rev. Karen Kennerly said as she spoke to the families. "Nobody should have to endure the losses you're experiencing."

    Kennerly said she asked Heminger's children what they would say to him if given the chance. Their answer was, "I miss you and miss your teasing and playing and jokes."

    Heminger was described as a man who had a good sense of humor and enjoyed spending time with his children. He taught his son, Jonathan, about hunting and gun safety and this fall took Jonathan to bag his first pheasant.

    Woitalewicz was known throughout the community for his smile and the way he would honk and wave at people as he drove through town. Kennerly said he enjoyed playing practical jokes and was a master craftsman.

    Reflecting on Saturday's accident that claimed the lives of 39-year-old Heminger and 38-year-old Woitalewicz, the Rev. James Janovec said, "They put themselves in harm's way in a very courageous and heroic act on Valentine's Day."

    Janovec said that, according to Heminger's father, Dewey, the two men did the right thing by going into the burning home and would have been the first to do it again.

    "What they did will not be forgotten by you or by us," Janovec said as he addressed the family.

    He said Heminger and Woitalewicz will be remembered by God for laying down their lives for another.

    As the musical group Wheel of Faith performed "Wind Beneath My Wings," Woitalewicz's wife, Melissa, held her 4-year-old son, Ryan, in her lap. She hugged him and kissed him while shedding tears for her husband and his fallen comrade, who was often at his side.

    At the conclusion of the service, Woitalewicz's and Heminger's children were presented with plaques by tearful Wood River firefighters. They hugged each one of the children tightly and returned to their seats in silence.

    In addition to paying tribute to the two fallen firefighters, those who attended Thursday's service were asked to remember Carrig and to pray for her husband, Ray, who escaped the fire uninjured.

    They were also reminded by Kennerly that, "All of us need to be neighbors to each other and help each other no matter what the circumstances."

    Following the graveside services at the Wood River Cemetery, emergency vehicles from across the state drove by the Wood River fire hall as a tribute to the department, which was established in 1908.
    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=26460
    Photo Below
    The Grand Island Independant / Gerik Parmele

    Pallbearers from the Wood River Fire Department bring the caskets of Captains Bob Heminger and Kenny Woitalewicz in to the Wood River High School gym. The empty chairs were soon filled with fire fighters from across the state who came to pay their respects.

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