Hundreds of fire companies escort 2 fallen Pa. firefighters in procession from coroner’s office
At the end of the route, neighbors gathered to pay their respects to Firefighter Marvin Gruber and First Assistant Chief Zachary Paris
By Jennifer Sheehan
The Morning Call
SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Pa. — State police and hundreds of fire companies from three counties escorted two fallen firefighters from the Schuylkill County Coroner’s office to the Lehigh County Joint Operations Center in South Whitehall Township.
A large American flag was erected with two cranes over the parking lot at the center, where neighbors gathered to pay their respects.
Marvin Gruber, 59, and Zachary Paris, 36, members of the Community Fire Company in New Tripoli, were killed Wednesday evening fighting a house fire on Clamtown Road in West Penn Township, Schuylkill County.
Gruber and Paris, who were trapped in the house and issued mayday calls over their radios, were pulled from the fire and taken to St. Luke’s Hospital-Miners in Coaldale, where they were pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m.
The procession began about 2:30 p.m. in New Philadelphia, traveled down Route 309 to Route 100, then drove to the center, where it arrived at 5 p.m.
Near the end of the route neighbors gathered, waiting to pay their respects.
”My brother is a firefighter,” said Kelly Hasselman, who walked over to watch with kids. “We have to show our appreciation. They are heroes with capes you can’t see.”
Her friend and neighbor, Brittney Lutseo, knew Marvin Gruber. Lutseo, whose husband has served as a volunteer firefighter for years, said Gruber worker with her mom at Lehigh Carbon Community College. Lutseo said Gruber worked at LCCC before he worked at Northampton Community College.
“I met him through my mom,” Lutseo said. “He was really a nice person. I keep thinking about my husband and how thank God he’s still here with me.”
Debi Kotretso waited on the corner just as the procession was arriving. She walked down from the neighborhood to pay her respects.
She said no time of year would be good to lose a loved one but right before Christmas makes it so much worse. As the procession entered the parking lot, they passed a large Christmas light decoration on the corner.
”To see so many people stepping up to be here, it is really great,” she said.