Tyler Casey, a volunteer Seneca area firefighter, was called out to go storm spotting with other firefighters in Newton County on Saturday evening.
Casey was spotting near the intersection of Highway 43 and Iris Road. Some spotters say Casey may have been the first spotter in Newton County to see, and relay, his report of a large tornado headed east-southeast.
At this point, the tornado was an EF-4 tornado.
As the storm worsened, Nimmo said Casey was officially dispatched to watch for tornadoes at that intersection. When he saw the tornado coming, Casey warned at least three people to seek shelter — someone changing their tire along the side of the road, as well as two other people in a nearby home.
Casey went back to his car to get out of the storm’s path, but it was too late. His car was hit by the tornado while he was inside.
He was taken to Freeman Hospital and placed on life support.
On Monday he was taken off life support, and died at 1:35 p.m.
"Everyone looked at Tyler with a great deal of respect because, for his age, and everyone on the department and surrounding departments, all knew Tyler, and if you were with him, you could count on him," says Ed Kelly, Tyler's fire instructor.
Casey has a two-year-old daughter and his fiancé is expecting another child. He served as a volunteer firefighter with the Seneca Area Fire Protection District for the last three years. There are about 20 other volunteer firefighters with that district office.
He was a trained storm spotter.
Since he was storm spotting as a firefighter, sent out by other emergency personnel in Newton County, his death will be considered a line-of-duty-death.
Meteorologists rely tremendously on the information gathered by storm spotters during severe storms like we had on Saturday. Tyler Casey's work helped get critical information to the public.
Redings Mill Fire Chief Andy Nimmo credited Casey with saving the lives of three people before he was injured and subsequently died.
“The key is he sacrificed his life so that others would live,” Nimmo said. “He was out warning people so they could get to safety, and then a tornado got him.
“I have a tremendous amount of pride for what he did. I wish I could be as much as a firefighter as he was. Here he was, just 21 years old and not getting paid anything for what he did. He could have run the other way, but he ran toward it, and gave his life saving others. I hope everyone realizes how much of a hero he was.”
Rest easy brother.