The body of 41-year-old Lee Gaunt – who was a fireman for the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service – was found hanged at Stalybridge Fire Station where he worked as a night crew manager by one of his colleagues at approximately 4:40 a.m. Sunday, according to the Mirror. Gaunt’s co-workers desperately tried to revive him, but paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene shortly after.
It was reported that Gaunt had been working the night shift before taking his own life and “was due to finish his shift at 8.30 a.m.” The firefighter and father-of-two was expected to be a witness in the case of 38-year-old firefighter and father of two Stephen Hunt, who was killed on July 13, 2013 by a “ferocious and sudden build-up of heat” after responding to a major blaze in Paul’s Hair World in the Northern Quarter.
He and another firemen were later pulled from the building and rushed to a local hospital, but Hunt succumbed to his injuries. Two 15-year-old girls were arrested on suspicion of arson, but the charges were later dropped, according to the Manchester Evening News.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) October 18, 2015
After learning of the tragedy, the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service released a statement, saying they were “extremely sad that an on-duty firefighter was found dead at Stalybridge Fire Station this morning. The Fire Brigades Union was also “shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Brother Lee Gaunt. Our thoughts at this time are with Lee’s family, friends and colleagues and we offer our most sincere condolences.”
Gaunt’s colleagues and the County Fire Officer and Chief Executive Peter O’Reilly met up at the fire station to pay respects to their fellow fireman. O’Reilly said, “We are devastated by Lee’s death. He was an extremely well liked and popular member of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and we are utterly distraught that he has gone.”
“We have contacted everyone on Green Watch this morning and it has left the entire service in shock. Our firefighters are brave people but this will test our strength to the extreme. We have three priorities today – to look after Lee’s family, his watch and everyone else who is part of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service family.”
“We are all so sad and it will take some time to sink in but we are supporting each other as much as we can,” he added. “In time, through police investigations and the Coronial process, we will begin to understand what has happened but for now my thoughts are with Lee’s family and all his friends.”
Local residents also paid tribute to Gaunt via Facebook. Once user, Mandy Saunders, wrote, “This was one our finest firemen in Tameside who fit our smoke alarms for deaf people in Tameside. My deepest sympathies go to his family and colleagues in the fire services. Another user said, “Rest easy Lee. You will be missed by everyone who knew you. Thoughts and condolence to all Lee’s family, friends and colleagues.”
“Desperately sad to hear of the death of firefighter Lee Gaunt. Thoughts with his family, friends and Manchester Fire,” Cllr. Iain Lindley wrote.
The Manchester fire tweeted that they will be “flying our flags at half-mast at every station in memory of Lee and to show unity with our colleagues in Stalybridge.”
Gary Keary, who is the secret for the Fire Brigades Union, said that “The Fire Brigades Union are deeply saddened to hear about Lee’s sudden passing” after learning of the fireman’s death. “Our thoughts are with Lee’s family, friends and colleagues at this time.”
Manchester police are currently investigating the incident to uncover how the death occurred.
[Image via YouTube screen capture]