Please take moment to remember a brother firefighter who gave his life yesterday..The Erie Fire Department & surrounding volunteer Fire Departments are saddened by tragic news...as well as the Community.
Black cloth hangs from the Lawrence Park Township fire station where those who knew Michael D. Crotty mourn his death in the line of duty.
Crotty, a deputy fire chief for Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department and also a recently hired Erie Bureau of Fire firefighter, was killed Tuesday afternoon while commanding the scene of a blaze at Port Erie Plastics, 909 Troupe Road in Harborcreek Township. Firefighters from nine departments, including Lawrence Park, were called to the scene at 3:54 p.m.
The fire consumed several stacks of wood and plastic skids stored outside and used for moving large quantities of material. According to Lawrence Park fire officials, Crotty was on the ground directing firefighters at the plant site when the department's aerial truck's ladder "malfunctioned," causing Crotty's fatal injuries. They did not elaborate.
He was transported by LifeStar helicopter to Hamot Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:56 p.m., Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook said. Cook said he ordered an autopsy on Crotty to be performed this morning.
Pennsylvania State Police and the Erie County District Attorney's office are investigating the circumstances surrounding Crotty's death. A state fire commissioner will also be at Port Erie Plastics to investigate the aerial truck ladder's breakdown.
Port Erie Plastics President John Johnson said late Tuesday afternoon that the fire started with the pallets stored on the north side of the building and that flames reached more than 40 feet into the air before fire crews brought the fire under control. The fire visibly damaged the metal wall and roof on the north side of the building. Fire crews were seen using saws and other ladder trucks to pry apart roof pieces that smoldered hours after the original fire was extinguished.
Johnson made a point to say that there is a no-smoking policy on company grounds, but a Port Erie employee who refused to give his name said that employees on break often smoke near the stored pallets.
Lawrence Park firefighters refused to comment out of respect for Crotty's family. Fire officials refused to discuss specifics surrounding the firefighter's death or the truck problem that caused his injuries, citing the ongoing investigation.
At an 8 p.m. news conference at Erie City Hall, Lawrence Park Chief Dan Mentley said Crotty was the latest member of a service-oriented firefighting family.
"Mike was a great person to be around. It was amazing what he was able to do at such a young age as deputy chief for Lawrence Park. He was so dedicated to the fire service," Mentley said. "Losing Mike is going to be felt for a very long time."
Crotty was an Air Force medic who was honorably discharged in August. He belonged to the Lawrence Park Fire Department for six years.
Erie Bureau of Fire Chief Tony Pol said Crotty joined the Erie fire bureau on Jan. 14, fulfilling Crotty's lifelong dream to join the ranks of professional firefighters in the Erie area. Assigned to Engine 6, 3rd Platoon, he attended firefighters' basic training this winter and responded to several fire calls.
"Mike would have been a great asset. He would have been a great addition," Pol said.
Mentley said grief counselors were already helping firefighters deal with Crotty's death. Others took comfort by confiding in their comrades.
Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott ordered flags on city flag poles lowered to half-staff.