Philadelphia to remember 3 fallen firefighters in tribute

Fallen firefighters Michael Goodwin, Robert Neary and Daniel Sweeney

April 9, 2013 5:56:03 PM PDT
Philadelphia's firefighters union is planning a tribute to mark the anniversary of the deaths of two firefighters who were killed in a building collapse while battling a warehouse blaze last year, while also paying tribute to a third firefighter killed in the line of duty just days ago.

Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, were killed a year ago in a building collapse at a nearby furniture store where the fire had spread in the city's Kensington section. Two other firefighters were injured.

One year after the tragedy, the deaths of Neary and Sweeney are the subject of a grand jury investigation.

At the time, the two New York brothers who owned the building owed $385,000 in back taxes on dozens of properties and faced numerous building code violations.

So far, one person has been arrested - the owner of the furniture store who is charged with lying to the grand jury.

The tribute held outside City Hall Tuesday, had long been planned to mark the one year anniversary of the deaths of Lt. Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney.

However today, three men were honored.

On Saturday, 53-year-old Capt. Michael Goodwin, died Saturday after falling from the roof of a three-story building while battling a fire in a fabric store in the city's Queen Village section.

Another firefighter, 28-year-old Andrew Godlewski, tried to save Goodwin but became trapped. Godlewski survived his injuries and left the hospital on Sunday.

Investigators say there's no evidence of criminality or neglect at the scene of Saturday's fire that claimed the life of Captain Michael Goodwin.

Goodwin will be given a posthumous promotion.

Goodwin's son Michael said, "Today we are here to honor three men who died as heroes and that is how they should be celebrated as heroes."

William Gault, President of the Firefighters union said, " Words cannot describe the pain and sorrow we feel this day."

The hugs and steady flow of tears spoke volumes. Chief Goodwin's family is the latest to be embraced by a grateful community.

Lt. Neary's wife Diane thanked the gathering crowd for their support. But, she also used the occasion to blast the Nutter administration for failing to resolve a three year long contract dispute.

"Do you know how hard it is for a fireman to carry a dead child down a ladder. Who is going to give them the push on the back or the encouragement," said Diane Neary.

Firefighter Sweeney's mother also thanked the crowd, noting that her son Daniel died a year ago today on what was his parents 29th wedding anniversary.

Marian Sweeney told the crowd, "Thank you for all the honors you gave him over the years. Please continue to pray for my husband and I."

Fresh wreaths of flowers have been placed outside Ladder 10 to honor Lt. Neary and firefighter Sweeney.

Chief Michael Goodwin will be laid to rest on Thursday at St. Michael's Lutheran Church.