Pa. firefighter dies after tree limb falls on him
Randy Syphrit, 52, was transported to an area hospital for treatment but succumbed to his injuries a day later
By Patrick O'Shea
Beaver County Times, Pa.
NORTH SEWICKLEY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It was a call he had answered hundreds of times over the last three decades, helping others in the community and that is how he will be remembered, community members said Thursday.
North Sewickley Township Assistant Road Foreman Randy Syphrit was clearing damaged tree branches on Collins Road, brought down Tuesday night in the latest round of storms to strike the community this summer, when he was struck hard by another tree limb, resulting in devastating injuries, officials said.
The 52-year-old lifelong township resident was taken to an area hospital for treatment but succumbed to his injuries Wednesday. His unexpected death sent shockwaves through the community and devastated those who have known him through his work with the township and his role as an assistant chief for the local fire department.
"He was an integral part of our township staff," North Sewickley Township Supervisors Chairman Emmett Santillo said. "I don't think you could have met a kinder or more gentle person."
In its official statement, the township expressed its sadness at his death and condolences to his family, particularly his son, Joshua, who also works for the municipality. "His passing represents an enormous personal loss to not only each and every employee of the township, but the community as a whole," the statement said.
Amy Schmidhamer, township secretary, said workers were sent home Wednesday when news broke of his death, and the township office will close at noon Friday so they can attend his funeral viewing, which begins at 2 p.m. at Joseph A. Tomon Jr. Funeral Home and Crematory in Ellport. Viewings will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. And his funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Providence Baptist Church, where he also was heavily involved, followed by interment at Locust Grove Cemetery.
"He was our glue," Schmidhamer said on what his loss means to the staff.
"He always went above and beyond to help everyone," Santillo said. "This is a tremendous loss."
The 1985 Riverside High School graduate had worked 29 years for the township and also served for 34 years with the North Sewickley Township Volunteer Fire Department.
North Sewickley fire Chief Mark Sutherland said Syphrit was his right arm and handled most of the daytime fire calls. "He had more energy than anyone I know," he said.
Sutherland said Syphrit always stepped up when needed. "He was always there for people ... always mentoring," he said.
John Trozzo, department president, said he has known Syphrit since he was 8 years old visiting his firefighter father at the station and went on to continue his family's tradition of serving the fire department. He said Syphrit was a great leader. "He never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn't do himself," Trozzo said.
"Randy was a doer," he said. "He did it for others, not for the glory."
In a statement on its Facebook social media page, the fire department said, "It is with the heaviest of hearts we mourn the loss of a great man, chief and friend: our mentor and brother, Randy Syphrit. Randy embodied the values of hard work, dedication and commitment. Ever willing and ready to help others and serve, he will be profoundly missed by his department, his brothers and sisters in the fire service, his community, his church and his loving family, who shared him with us all for a lifetime of friendship and memories. Thank you for the example you set for us, Randy. Thank you for all you taught us and for all you were. Now, rest easy. We'll take it from here."
Trozzo said his loss also will be felt by many mutual aid fire departments he worked closely with over the years, and indeed several area fire departments added their comments of condolences to the Facebook page. That site and several others noting his death received hundreds of comments supporting his family and offering their memories of the man, some remembering incidents where he helped them out and never asked for anything in return.
Ellwood City fire Chief Rick Myers said this death was heartbreaking to those who called him a true friend and the community. He said if you looked up the epitome of firefighter in the dictionary there would be a picture of Syphrit.
"He touched so many people in so many ways," Myers said. He said he would be surprised if fewer than 100 firefighters from throughout the region turned up for his viewing, and Myers said they are planning a massive procession of fire trucks from the church to the cemetery Saturday.
"His loss is going to resonate for years to come," Myers said.
©2019 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.)