First funeral held for slain N.Y. state firefighters
Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:24AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 30, 2012 8:58PM EST
First responders from the U.S. and Canada were honouring one of their own Sunday afternoon in upstate New York, where the first of two funerals is being held for firefighters slain on Christmas Eve.
Holding caps to their chests, hundreds of uniformed emergency services personnel filed past the flag-draped coffin of 43-year-old Police Lt. Michael Chiapperini Sunday afternoon in a local high school auditorium to honour the firefighter, who died in the line of duty.
A funeral procession that included a pipe and drum band accompanied mourners into the auditorium.
Canadian first responders travelled to upstate New York to attend the funerals of Chiapperini and his 19-year-old firefighter colleague Tomasz Kaczowka, who were shot to death while responding to reports of a house and car fire in the Rochester suburb on Christmas Eve.
Police allege that accused gunman William Spengler deliberately set his house ablaze, luring emergency service responders to him before opening fire. Two others were wounded in the ambush.
A funeral for Kaczowka is scheduled for Monday.
Among those attending the funerals in Webster, N.Y. were nearly 100 firefighters with Toronto Fire Services. The Toronto firefighters left for the funerals in two separate groups on Saturday and Sunday.
Capt. Mike Ogle of Toronto Fire Services said it’s not uncommon for firefighters and police officers to travel out of town to pay their respects to fallen colleagues.
“It’s something we’ve always done when something like this happens,” he told CP24 on Sunday. “These firefighters from our association are heading down on their own time.”
Ogle added: “You’re going to see a huge contingent of firefighters and police officers there.”
Several local hotels are offering reduced rates for firefighters making the three-and-a-half hour drive to Webster. Community florists reporting being inundated by requests for flowers, and the local fire department has instead suggested that attendees donate to their volunteer firefighter’s association.
Among the funeral attendees from Toronto Fire Services were members of its pipe and drum band, which is said to be affiliated with Webster’s fire department.
As North American firefighters mourn their fallen colleagues, police continue to investigate their deaths.
Last Friday, authorities announced that a 24-year-old woman had been charged in connection with the purchase of guns used in the alleged ambush.
Due to his criminal past, accused gunman William Spengler was not allowed to own firearms. Police have charged Dawn Nguyen of Greece, N.Y. with making a false statement in connection with the purchase of a semiautomatic rifle and shotgun used that day.
Police assert that Nguyen, who used to live next door to Spengler, purchased the weapons in 2010 on her former neighbour’s behalf.
Two other firefighters wounded during the ordeal, Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino, are said to be on the mend after having their conditions upgraded to “satisfactory” last week.
Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering at the casket of firefighter and Webster police officer Michael Chiapperini, during his funeral service in Webster, N.Y., Sunday Dec. 30, 2012. (AP / Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano)
The flag covered casket of Lt. Mike Chiapperini is lowered into place at the start of a funeral service in Webster, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP / Kevin Rivoli)
Webster Police chief Gerlad Pickering speaks of his friend, firefighter Michael Chiapperini at his funeral service at Webster Schroeder High School in Webster, N.Y., Sunday Dec. 30, 2012. (AP / Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano)
A coffin containing the body of police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, who was killed while volunteering as a firefighter, is carried by members of the police department in Webster, N.Y. on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.
Firefighters gather around a burning house after they were let back into the area to battle the blaze in Webster, N.Y. on Monday Dec. 24, 2012. (Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano)