NEW CARLISLE, Ind. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters and other mourners paid their final respects Monday to a veteran northern Indiana volunteer firefighter who was killed when a roof collapsed during a blaze.
New Carlisle Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Middlebrook, 41, had been a volunteer firefighter for 20 years. He was setting up a hose last week inside K-Fex Excavating and Trucking near New Carlisle, a town of about 2,000 people just west of South Bend, when the roof caved in.
Mourners packed the auditorium at Bethel College and overflow areas for service, the South Bend Tribune reported.
“I came into the fire service, he took me in, he taught me the right way to do things,” New Carlisle Fire Chief Josh Schweizer said during emotional eulogy. “He showed me how to be strong, be brave in someone’s time of need. His time of need is now.”
Schweizer then addressed Middlebrook’s parents, thanking them “for sharing Jamie with us. He was a huge part of your life, and a huge part of mine.”
Middlebrook’s father, Robert Middlebrook, also is a volunteer firefighter with the New Carlisle department and was at the scene when his son was trapped, officials have said.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly also spoke during the funeral, after which a procession traveled about 20 miles to a local cemetery. When the procession reached the New Carlisle fire station, it paused for a “final call” radio transmission over the local fire dispatch channel.
State and federal investigators have not yet determined what caused the fire. Middlebrook’s body was recovered about 50 feet into the building, around three hours after the roof collapsed, according to the LaPorte County coroner.