Kansas City firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh died heroes. Both had just rescued two people stuck in a burning building Monday night when the building collapsed over their heads, crushing them.
The men were both veterans of the Kansas City fire department — Leggio for 17 years and Mesh for 13, WDAF reported. Both leave behind grieving families, Larry a wife and his mother, and John a wife and four young daughters.
The collapse injured two others, but they will be released from the hospital soon. According to the Kansas City Star, Monday’s accident is the worst in the department’s recent history. Nearly 30 years ago, six firefighters were killed in an explosion at a construction site.
Kansas City Chief Paul Berardi called Monday “the worst day” and predicted the next month will be rough.
“It’s difficult when you’re with somebody 24 hours a day and laughing and joking and then something like this happens.”
About 7:30 p.m. that night, firefighters were dispatched to a fire and arrived to find the structure — a combination commercial and residential property — heavily damaged already by smoke and flames. Once they rescued a couple of people, the inferno escalated to a second alarm. As the blaze raged, they attempted to fight the flames and rescue civilians at the same time.
Then, they shifted to defensive operations. Chief Berardi said that requires all firefighters to evacuate, and a head count to be done. This was ordered at 7:52 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, the east side of the building collapsed. The Star noted that they were clearing an area that had a partially collapsed roof when the structure gave way. Mayday calls from that area were made to report that four men were in “urgent distress.”
“They located, uncovered and removed, four firefighters from the immediate area,” the chief noted.
The collapse had killed two of them. All four were sent to the hospital, where Leggio and Mesh were reported dead. Paramedics, nurses, and doctors had tried to save the pair, who had just saved civilians’ lives. But their efforts were in vain.
“What is good for their families to remember is that they did not die in vain, they saved two civilians, carried them out of the second floor on ladders before the wall collapsed,” the chief added.
The men’s ages were not given, CBS News added.
It’s not clear yet what caused the fire, and that is still under investigation. Arson isn’t suspected at this point. Hours after the men were killed, the fire still burned, flames shooting from the rubble and smoke coating the neighborhood, the Star added.
Lawrence Ray Lee, who stood outside with his oxygen tank as his home burned, said it had been damaged by fire once already in just the space of a year. He was home when this latest one erupted.
“I was laying down and heard somebody yell, ‘Everybody get out.’ I opened my door and there was smoke really bad.”
When he left his apartment, he found the hallways full of smoke and flames and managed to make it outside.
Meanwhile, Kansas City Mayor Sly James offered his condolences to the families of the men killed Monday night.
“The only thought that I have is thoughts for the family of the, particularly the children of firefighter Mesh. Unfortunately, situations like this really bring home to all of us the danger that firefighters and police officers confront every day and what the consequences of those dangers are.”
[Photo Courtesy sandyman / Shutterstock]