Michigan fire chief hit, killed while responding to call

(WOOD Photo)

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich (WOOD) — Comstock Fire and Rescue Chief Edward Switalski was hit and killed by a passing vehicle while responding to an “unknown accident” on eastbound I-94, Kalamazoo County authorities say.

Oshtemo Township Fire Department Chief Mark Barnes said it all started with Comstock Fire and Rescue looking for two crashes on eastbound I-94 near mile marker 81 around 10:30 p.m., after heavy rains. When they arrived, they found an empty vehicle and no injuries to report.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office said as fire crews were getting ready to leave the scene, a passing vehicle lost control and hit Switalski, who was standing near the rear of his rescue vehicle.

Crews at the scene tried to revive Switalski, but were unsuccessful. He died at the scene.

The driver of the at-fault vehicle was taken to Borgess Methodist Hospital with injuries from the crash.

The incident remains under investigation, but Barnes says it should serve as a warning to other drivers.

“When we’re out on these highways, the interstates and even the county roads, we’re treating people that are already injured. Please, be cautious. There’s already one injury, you don’t want to become injured either by not paying attention,” said Barnes.

After serving more 30 years at a fire department in Chicagoland, Switalski moved to West Michigan in 2013 to be closer to his daughters, who were attending Western Michigan University.

He was sworn in on July 1, 2013, replacing a fire chief who had been with the department for more than 40 years.

“He was extremely social. You’ll find him all over his Facebook page far more than most of us are in my age bracket. Absolute wonderful guy. He’s a firefighter’s firefighter. Really, as he came out of Illinois, he was highly active in regional events there, he brought some of those talents to us here in Kalamazoo County,” said Barnes.

The flag outside Comstock Fire and Rescue was at half staff Thursday morning in honor of its chief.

Word of Switalski’s death spread quickly through the Kalamazoo County community.

“The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department wishes to extend their sincere condolences to the Switalski family and the Comstock Fire department in their tragic loss,” the sheriff’s office said in its news release.

They weren’t alone.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to family, friends and fellow fire fighters (sic) of Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski,” read a post on Downtown Kalamazoo Cops’ Facebook page.

Anyone with information about the crash is encouraged to contact the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office at 269.383.8748 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.

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