SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A longtime volunteer firefighter was killed when a roof collapsed as he and others battled a blaze at an Indiana trucking business, trapping him inside, authorities said Wednesday.
New Carlisle assistant fire chief Jamie Middlebrook, a 41-year-old volunteer, was helping to set up a hose Tuesday night inside K-Fex Excavating and Trucking near the 2,000-person town of New Carlisle, about 15 miles west of South Bend, LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said.
The fire destroyed the metal barn-like structure, with flames burning through the roof. It took firefighters several hours to extinguish the blaze.
Another firefighter was taken to a Michigan City, Indiana, hospital with a broken ankle, smoke inhalation and minor burns, but the injuries were not life-threatening, LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said.
Middlebrook’s body was recovered about 50 feet into the building, around three hours after the roof collapsed, Sullivan said.
“A large section of the roof came down on Jamie and he could not be rescued,” Sullivan told The Associated Press.
Middlebrook’s father, Robert Middlebrook, also is a volunteer firefighter with the New Carlisle department and was at the scene when his son was trapped, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said numerous large trucks and other heavy equipment were inside the building and that oil and fuel might have also helped increase the fire’s intensity.
Emergency workers stood at attention as Middlebrook’s body was removed from the rubble, and he was later honored with a large American flag hanging from atop a ladder truck outside the New Carlisle fire station.
“They’re all volunteers,” Mollenhauer said. “Talk about putting your life on the line. That’s the way those guys are. They’re a brotherhood. They do it for the community.”
Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement saying Middlebrook died protecting others.
“Indiana mourns the loss of a true Hoosier hero,” Pence said. “On behalf of the state, the first lady and I extend our condolences to his family and friends and hold them in prayer during this difficult time.”
Associated Press writer Tom Davies in Indianapolis contributed to this report.