Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel briefly stopped on Saturday before delivering the devastating news. Lieutenant Matthew LeTourneau, an 11-year veteran of the department, had died in the line of duty at the age of 42.
"All the men and women of the Philadelphia Fire Department are heroes," Thiel said. From the day they take the oath of service to this city, they are heroes. Among those heroes, there is the pantheon of men and women who made the maximum sacrifice in the service of others. Today, tragically, Lieutenant Matt LeTourneau of Engine Company 45 joins that host of heroes. And our hearts are breaking. "
Lt. LeTourneau was one of 100 firefighters who responded to a two-alarm fire in the 2200 block of North Colorado Street, a side street on West Susquehanna Avenue, near 17th Street in North Philly, at 8:51 a.m. Saturday, the responding firefighters removed a resident from the house.That resident, who has not yet been identified, was pronounced dead later.
During the fire, a structure within the the house collapsed while Lieutenant LeTourneay was inside, trapping him under rubble, his colleagues tried desperately to get him out.
"Due to the degree of structural collapse and which was immobilized under the rubble, that effort [to rescue him] lasted about 30 minutes "said Thiel." He was never alone. The rescue began almost immediately. "
After being removed from the house, LeTourneau was taken to Temple University Hospital and declared dead at 11:07 am
During the chaotic scene, frigid temperatures made it difficult firefighters and doctors.
"The frozen hydrants, hard to access with snow on the ground," said Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Jesse Wilson. "It's hard to get on with the hoses. It is difficult to pull stairs. "
Two other firefighters and a neighbor were injured during the fire, and when the respondents tried to load the victims in the ambulance, one of the stretchers went off.
" Me and a lot of I overtook other gentlemen, I picked him up and took him to the end of the block, "said Dennis Cumiskey, one of them, the witnesses who helped the first to respond.
The fire was brought under control at 10:49 am investigators have not yet determined a cause.
Along with Commissioner Thiel, Mayor Jim Kenney, son of a city firefighter, also spoke outside the Temple University hospital after LeTourneau's death, noting that each firefighter "in each turn endangers us"
"We are sad and our hearts are broken," said Kenney.
LeTourneau was a member of Engine 45. Previously he had worked in Engine 43 and engine 57. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2015. He received a fine per unit in 2010 and a letter of recognition for his service during the World Meeting of Families in 2015.
He graduated from Cardinal High School O & # 39; Hara in Springfield in 1993 and obtained a associate degree in fire science from Delaware County Community College. He became a volunteer firefighter when he was a teenager and also served as an instructor at several fire academies in the area.
He lived in Springfield and is survived by his mother, other relatives and friends.
"To say that Matt died doing what he loves is difficult, but I am also very proud of that," said Timothy Bryce, the Director of Emergency Services in Springfield. "He directed people and today he led a group of firefighters that tries to save someone's life."
All flags of the city of Philadelphia will fly to Half the staff for 30 days in honor of LeTourneau. A procession for LeTourneay also took place on Saturday afternoon. The funeral arrangements are pending.
The block where the deadly fire occurred has a grim recent history. Philadelphia Police Sgt. Patrick McDonald was killed there in 2008 while pursuing an armed suspect.