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US

First of 6 bodies recovered from Massachusetts blaze

troopers
Connecticut State Police use a trained dog to aid the search for the bodies of six Worcester firefighters Sunday  

December 6, 1999
Web posted at: 6:46 a.m. EST (1146 GMT)

WORCESTER, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The body of one of six Worcester firefighters killed in a five-alarm blaze was removed Sunday as rescuers combed through the ruins of the still-smoldering warehouse where they died.

Firefighters stood at attention in the smoke, pressing their helmets to their chests as the remains of Timothy P. Jackson, 51, were carried out. Others kneeled in prayer.

"The medical examiner's there," said firefighter Jim Slevin. "He told the guys to be prepared, because it's going to be difficult to identify them."

Six firefighters failed to emerge from the burning building Friday night and are presumed dead. Two were searching for homeless people they thought might have been trapped inside the abandoned warehouse. Four more died trying to rescue them after they told controllers they were lost and running out of air.

The Worcester tragedy is believed to be the nation's worst firefighting disaster since 1994, when 14 died battling a forest fire in Colorado.

"It's a mass of debris, and we have to move slowly through there," Chief Dennis Budd said Sunday. "It's tedious and painstaking and we're moving in there as fast as we can, safely."

A search-and-rescue team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is assisting the effort to recover the bodies, along with engineers and firefighters from neighboring communities. As they sifted through the rubble, searchers were using cranes, dogs and miniature cameras that allowed them to peer into confined spaces.

"It's virtually collapsed inside," said Budd. "Burnt timbers and twisted metal are all over the place. It's a mess."

One official said it appeared the building had been empty at the time the firefighters went inside.

"The homeless individuals known to frequent this area have all been accounted for," State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said.

In addition to Jackson, the fire claimed the lives of James F. Lyons III, 34; Joseph T. McGuirk, 38; Paul A. Brotherton, 41; Jeremiah M. Lucey, 38; and Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, 42.

A memorial service for the six was scheduled Thursday morning at the Worcester Centrum, the city's largest arena. Individual funerals and memorials were planned Friday and Saturday at the churches the firemen attended.



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RELATED SITES:
Worcester Fire Department Home Page
International Association of Fire Fighters¨
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