Fallen Wilmington firefighters honored with escort

ByBob Brooks WPVI logo
Monday, September 26, 2016
VIDEO: Fallen firefighters honored
Firefighters in Wilmington, Delaware have honored two comrades who were killed in the line of duty Saturday.

WILMINGTON, Del. (WPVI) -- Firefighters in Wilmington, Delaware have honored two comrades who were killed in the line of duty Saturday.

The first responders lined up and saluted Monday morning outside the medical examiner's office in Wilmington as the flag-draped caskets of Lieutenant Chris Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes were placed one after another into separate hearses.

Chopper 6 HD was overhead as fire trucks then provided escorts for each hearse to separate funeral homes.

Funeral arrangements for the men have not yet been made public.

Leach, 41, and Fickes, 51 died Saturday while battling a house fire in 1900 block of Lakeview Road.

On Sunday, new radio transmission revealed the sequence of events that took place Saturday morning.

VIDEO: Mayday calls

The mayday calls from the house fire call in Wilmington.

Overcome with grief, Missy Napier couldn't bear to talk about the firefighters who lost their lives.

1 of 47
The bodies of two fallen Wilmington firefighters were given an escort on Monday, September 26.

"She's praying for their families. She knows it's hard, especially if they have kids. It's breaking her heart to know they passed away in her house," said Deborah Napier, mother.

Heavy smoke and flames began pouring from Napier's home on the 1900 block of Lakeview Road before 3 a.m. Saturday.

"The smoke was so hot. Not the fire, but the smoke. It was burning your face," said Missy Napier, who lost her home.

VIDEO: Homeowner speaks to Action News

Homeowner speaks to Action News after rescued from burning Wilmington home.

There were early reports of children trapped, but Napier's mother says everyone had gotten out before fire crews arrived.

The chief says firefighters entered the home and started up the steps.

"The floors became very soft and brittle and began to start to collapse. Four firefighters fell down into the collapse of the floor. Two of those fire fighters have passed away," said Wilmington Fire Department Chief Anthony Goode.

Crews pulled three from the basement. But the raging fire made it difficult for them to reach the fourth.

After an agonizing hour, a body was carried away with an American flag draped over it.

Hours later, police saluted as their bodies were driven to the medical examiner.

"Please keep us in your prayers," said Goode. "All our family is hurting significantly. The entire city is hurting significantly. I know I am."

Fire officials say two firefighters, identified as Ardythe Hope and Brad Speakman, are still in the hospital in critical but stable condition.

Investigators are working to determine what sparked the flames.

Officials tell Action News they are not ruling out arson.

At the Salesianum School Sunday, where Lt. Leach was a graduate, there was heartbreak at the sight of Lt. Leache's three children crying and consoled by friends and family.

A teary-eyed ceremony was held where comfort was sought through support and prayer to God.

"For those who believe in your love, death is not the end nor does it destroy the bonds you have forged in our lives," said Father Chris Beretta, Salesianum School.

Lt. Leach was a 1994 graduate of the school.

We were told stories of the two firefighters that lost their lives.

Jerry Fickes worked out of Station 4, draped now by black bunting.

"He was one of the toughest guys I know. When I went to his house today, he has pull up bars in every single doorway of his house. That dude must do pull-ups every single time he walked through a door," said Tim Tagggart, Wilmington firefighter.

We're told Lt. Leach was a leader at a young age.

"He was a year younger than me, but he was actually one of the guys you look up to. No matter where he went in life, he was just successful," said Tagggart.

And also one clear until the end of his life.

"He was a hero on and off the job," said Tagggart.

While family and neighbors praise their heroism, they're also questioning whether the tragedy could have been avoided.

"They must have thought somebody was trapped inside. Because it's a family of eight and all eight got out," said Deborah Napier.

Missy Napier, who lived at the home with her children, has lost everything.

But she tells us she feels blessed with so much support from the community.

"Thank you so much. We really appreciate it," said Missy Napier.