Death marks ‘dark day’ for Lewes Fire Department

Public Information Officer with Lewes Fire Department, Glenn Marshall, regains his composure while talking about Lewes Fireman Tim McClanahan  who lost his life on a Delaware Air Rescue Team training exercise. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Public Information Officer with Lewes Fire Department, Glenn Marshall, regains his composure while talking about Lewes Fireman Tim McClanahan who lost his life on a Delaware Air Rescue Team training exercise. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

LEWES — Tim McClanahan was remembered as a pioneering member of water and airborne rescue teams, officials said Tuesday while recognizing his statewide impact on the fire service.

Mr. McClanahan, 46, a volunteer firefighter with the Lewes Fire Department, died Monday night after falling from a helicopter while training with the Delaware Air Rescue Team at the Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown.

“Yesterday was a dark day for the Lewes Fire Department, Air Rescue Team and the fire service in general,” Lewes FD spokesman Glenn Marshall said at a news conference.

“ … While the Lewes Fire Department lost a friend, a brother and a member, we reach out to the family who [lost] a son a father and a brother.”

This morning a procession of firefighters and police throughout the state will travel to Wilmington to pick up Mr.

Delaware State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Richard Bratz speaks at press conference at Lewes Fires Station 2. Lewes Fireman Tim McClanahan lost his life on a Delaware Air Rescue Team training exercise.

Delaware State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Richard Bratz speaks at press conference at Lewes Fires Station 2. Lewes Fireman Tim McClanahan lost his life on a Delaware Air Rescue Team training exercise.

McClanahan‘s remains and return home with them to a funeral home.

Mr. McClanahan, after joining Lewes FD in 2001, spearheaded the drive to add the Marine One rescue boat to its fleet. He served as its captain for many years while training others for crew operations and maintenance.

Also, Mr. McClanahan was part of an air rescue team before it officially partnered with the Delaware State Police in its current operations. Also, he instructed at the Delaware Fire Service and served as assistant chief and engineer, among other contributions.

“Tim was an energetic member of the fire department who loved sharing with others and loved helping others learn to do the job better,” Lewes FD Chief Gordon Davis said.

After the formal news conference, State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he has watched air rescue training exercises and said he was astonished by what team members could perform. The tragedy, he said, is an unfortunate reminder of how difficult and dangerous aerial emergency responses are.

Rep. Schwartzkopf, a former Delaware State Police Trooper, spoke of the bond formed between law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services personnel, nurses and doctors. Losing Mr. McClanahan hurts deeply, he said.

“When something like this happens it’s like losing a member of a family,” he said.

Rep. Schwartzkopf remembered Mr. McClanahan as aggressively pushing for fire service equipment funding and described him as “a friendly guy” nonetheless.

“I last saw him a short time ago when he ran by me on the way somewhere and then quickly turned around and came back to say ‘Hi’ “ he said.

Lewes Fire Chief Gordon Davis speaks about Tim McClanahan.

Lewes Fire Chief Gordon Davis speaks about Tim McClanahan.

Four years ago, Mr. McClanahan was part of a team that rescued a person who fell off a ship and was in a perilous position when located.

“ … There’s probably not a person I’d rather have beside me when responding to a fire or emergency situation,” Chief Davis said.

While acknowledging that some minor training injuries had occurred due to the dangerous nature of operations, Chief Davis said the program is considered immensely safe with highly skilled and experienced members taking part.

The Federal Aviation Administration is taking the lead on investigating the incident. Delaware State Police said the process is in the very early stages.

The on-duty fatality was the Lewes FD’s first since 2002, when past chief and president Louis Rickards was killed in an automobile crash en route to a meeting.

Funeral services were pending as of Tuesday night, Mr. Marshall said.

Officials express sympathies

Elected officials expressed their condolences and sympathies through statements issued Tuesday, including Delaware Gov. Jack Markell who said, “My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. McClanahan’s family during this difficult time.

“He was an exemplary public servant, who volunteered to serve his community despite the risks of being a fire fighter. The greatest honor we can pay to Tim and his family is to keep his memory alive, allowing his dedication to serving the public to continue to inspire us, while reminding us of the sacrifices our first responders, police officers, and fire fighters make every day to keep us safe.”

Describing himself as “heartbroken about the tragic accident” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., saluted Mr.

The Lewes Fire Station 2 is draped in black bunting after the loss of Lewes Fireman Tim McClanahan.

The Lewes Fire Station 2 is draped in black bunting after the loss of Lewes Fireman Tim McClanahan.

McClanahan and first responders throughout the nation.

“In Delaware and across the country, it has been a challenging week for America’s first responders who place their lives on the line every day for our safety and protection,” Sen. Coons said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the McClanahan family and Delaware’s volunteer firefighting community.”

Noting Mr. McClanahan’s “distinguished career in public service” U.S. Rep. John Carney, D-Del., said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of a “dedicated firefighter.”

“Tim was a dedicated firefighter with the Lewes Fire Department, who selflessly served the people of Delaware for many years,” Rep. Carney said. “I am grateful for all the contributions he made to his community and to our state.

“My heart goes out to Tim’s family, friends, and fellow first responders during this very difficult time.

“They know more than anyone the passion that he had for helping those in need and the bravery it took to put the safety and well-being of others ahead of his own. His sacrifices will not be forgotten.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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