KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Captain died in the line of duty from COVID-19.
Local 42, the KCMO firefighters union, tweeted out the news Saturday morning.
Local 42 is heartbroken to share the news that Brother Robert “Bobby” Rocha, a Captain with the Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department, has died in the line of duty from COVID-19. Rest In Peace, brother. #lodd pic.twitter.com/4eGotSjyJL— KC Fire Fighters (@IAFFLocal42) November 21, 2020
KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas shared his condolences, saying that 59-year old Fire Captain Robert "Bobby" Rocha had been battling COVID-19 for several weeks.
"Captain Rocha was somebody who was very involved and engaged in the community," Lucas said. "My heart just goes out to all of them. I think it just shows the seriousness that we have with COVID-19, the serious threat that it is to our first responders."
Rocha, according to a spokesperson with the KCFD, started with the department in 1991. He was with Station 18.
KCMO Fire Chief Donna Lake said in a tweet Saturday afternoon that Rocha is the second COVID-19-related line of duty death for the department. The first was EMT Billy Birmingham, who died in April.
Captain Rocha battled hard against COVID-19, unfortunately he passed away this morning. This is our 2nd Coronavirus related LODD. EMT Billy Birmingham in April and Capt. Bobby Rocha today. This is a difficult time for us all. @KCMOFireDept @KCMO https://t.co/Ni0qEkM1P4— Fire Chief Donna Lake (@KCMOFireChief) November 21, 2020
"This is a difficult time for us all," Lake said.
One of Rocha's hangout spots was the Outpost Bar and Grill in the Northland. His friends, including Ross Distefano, said it was a shock to hear of his death.
"I was heartbroken, my heart was just like, seriously, this town lost a super super guy," Distefano said.
David Cox, owner of Outpost Bar and Rocha's friend, said the fire captain was a mentor and a role model.
"People looked up to him like he was Hercules or something, man," Cox said. "The fighters that he’s trained, they’ve come in here, I’ve met them, he’s taught them respect."
Friends told 41 Action News that Rocha loved to ride his motorcycle and sing karaoke. He was a friendly man who would do anything for anybody.
"He gave so much of himself to the firefighter community and then outside of that he gave everything as well," Cox said.
Rocha was exposed to COVID-19 in November while on the job.
According to the department, 176 KCFD employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. With Rocha's passing, there are now 73 active cases.
As of Friday, the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department said that 72 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 and five have been hospitalized out of 436 employees.
"It doesn’t really hurt you to wear the mask or social distance just do it, safe a life, just do it," said Cox.
KCFD said they are working on funeral arrangements.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Capt. Robert "Bobby" Rocha's age.