KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Two firefighters have died as a result of their injuries from a massive fire and building collapse in northeastern Kansas City on Monday evening.
An engulfed apartment building on Independence Avenue collapsed after a structure fire around 8 p.m. Monday.
The fire department identified Larry Leggio and John Mesh as the firefighters killed in the fire.
Leggio was a 17-year veteran and worked on Truck 2 from 34th and Paseo, and Mesh was a 13-year veteran and worked on Pumper 10 from Ninth and Paseo.
"They did not die in vain," Chief Paul Berardi said. "They saved two civilians, carried them out of the second floor on ladders before the wall collapsed."
"They were both good men. They were hard firefighters," Bill Galvin, President of IAFF Local 42 said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "We know today they'd still do the same job again if they had to. That was their job; that's what they knew to do."
Crews were called to the scene just after 7:30 p.m. to an apartment complex at 2608 Independence Ave. According to KCFD, when fire crews arrived on scene, crews carried two people out of the structure. Firefighters on the scene said the two rescued did not suffer any injuries.
When they arrived, they located smoke and fire showing from the building and ordered additional fire crews. Within 20 minutes, fire crews had exited the structure and were battling the fire in a defensive mode.
Chief James Garrett said four firefighters were injured as they were clearing the area in anticipation of a collapse, and they were hit by debris. The four firefighters were initially transported to an area hospital. The department later confirmed Leggio and Mesh had died.
IAFF Local 42 reported two other members, Fire Apparatus Operator Chris Anderson and Firefighter Dan Werner, were hospitalized Monday. Both were released from the hospital, according to the Kansas City Fire Department.
The Kansas City Fire Department said in a news release Tuesday that an additional firefighter sought medical attention for a broken foot he suffered in the collapse.
Crews were still battling some remaining flames at the site of the fire early Tuesday morning. Local traffic was diverted from the area until authorities confirmed the flames are completely out.
During Tuesday morning's news conference, KCFD Chief Paul Berardi said the second floor of the building collapsed, pushing smoke, fire and wall structure out 30 feet. Berardi said the two firefighters who died were behind that wall.
"Evacuation was ordered at 7:52. At approximately 8:07 a collapse was reported on the east side of the structure. Two may-day calls were received from the collapsed area, indicating firefighters in urgent distress. Four firefighters were reported trapped by the collapse. The rapid intervention team witnessed the collapse and held their ground for no more than 10 seconds.
"They located, uncovered and removed four firefighters from the immediate area. The first ambulance transporting the firefighter departed the scene at 8:13 p.m. arriving at Truman Medical Center at approximately five minutes later. Second emergency transport left the scene at approximately 8:21 p.m., with the arrival at TMC at approx. 5 minutes later. Both firefighters were pronounced dead at the hospital after paramedics, nurses and doctors tried to revive them. A third firefighter was transferred to KU Medical Center at 8: 23 and a fourth transported as non emergency to St. Luke's at 8:27p.m."
Berardi mentioned Leggio leaves behind a wife and a mother, and firefighter Mesh leaves behind a wife and four young daughters.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost and injured and with their peers throughout KCFD," Berardi said.
People displaced by the fire
The Red Cross was on the scene helping those displaced by the fire. Nineteen people representing 12 families were displaced by the fire. Many opted to stay with family and friends, and eight to nine were put up in hotels. The youngest is 6 months old and the oldest is in his or her 70s.
Duane Hallock from The Red Cross says the victims are shell-shocked and have case workers to help them with necessities like diapers and medicine as well as starting the hard step of rebuilding.
How you can help
A fund to support the families of fallen firefighters is available through IAFF Local 42. Tax-deductible donations will be given to the families of firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh. Donations can be made by check, payable to IAFF Local 42 and should be sent to:
6320 Manchester Ave., Suite 42A
Kansas City, MO 64133
The Surviving Spouse and Family Endowment Fund (S.A.F.E.) provides immediate and possibly long-term financial support to the spouses, children and/or dependent parents of those covered persons who are killed in the line of duty in the Kansas City area. You can learn more and donate here.
NEXT: See the emotional 7 a.m. news conference
You can watch the full 7 a.m. news conference below. (On a mobile device and can't see it? Watch it here.)
Statements and tweets of condolences
Multiple people and agencies extended their condolences to the KCFD, Leggio and Mesh.
Mesh's cousin Mike Mesh posted the following message on his Facebook page:
"Thank you for the outpouring of love and respect for us and our family, I can't speak for the rest of my family but Tami and I are overwhelmed with the love and respect from our friends and my railroad family. John was not only my cousin but my friend and hunting companion. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew and loved him.Thank you again and God bless you all."
Mayor Sly James released the following statement:
"Tonight's tragic loss is a reminder that Kansas City firefighters put their lives on the line for all of us every day. Our condolences go out to the loved ones of those who made the ultimate sacrifice today, and we pray for recovery of the injured."
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in Jackson County to honor the two slain firefighters. His office released the following statement:
“These fallen heroes sacrificed their own lives to save the lives of others, exemplifying the selfless courage and bravery shown by firefighters each and every day,” Gov. Nixon said. “We join the families, friends and colleagues of firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh in mourning their loss.”
The Kansas City Royals will have a tribute for the two firefighters during a pre-game ceremony ahead of Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday evening. The tribute will include a moment of silence. On Tuesday, many Royals players and coach Ned Yost were seen wearing KCFD shirts and hats during practice to support the firefighters.
Many local administrators, police departments and fire departments offered their condolences on Twitter:
Saddened 2 hear the news of 2 @KCMOFireDept firefighters who died in the line of duty tonight. We are grateful for our firefighter brethren— Lenexa Police (@LenexaPolice) October 13, 2015
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women of the Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department on the loss of... http://t.co/HZrLiETbeE— City of Atchison (@CityofAtchison) October 13, 2015
Our thoughts and prayers are with @KCMOFireDept as they have lost 2 of their bravest.— NWCFD (@NWCFD) October 13, 2015
Thoughts and prayers to the families of the KC firefighters who died tonight in a fire on Independence Ave... http://t.co/twEFTzt0sF— Raytown Fire Dist (@raytownfire) October 13, 2015
Hearts are heavy tonight as our thoughts and prayers are with the @KCMOFireDept and families of the fallen.— Lenexa Fire Dept. (@LenexaFire) October 13, 2015
Sad news from KCMO Fire Department this evening, thoughts and prayers for the families of the 2 firefighters lost... http://t.co/pvmUPA0vQM— SWJOCOCERT (@SWJOCOCERT) October 13, 2015
Our thoughts and prayers are with the @KCMOFireDept who lost two firefighters in the line of duty tonight. These individuals are true heroes— City of Shawnee KS (@CityofShawneeKS) October 13, 2015
@KCMOFireDept our thoughts and prayers go with your families.— City of Leavenworth (@LeavenworthKS) October 13, 2015