Posts Tagged Elgin firefighter memorial

Elgin Fire Department Memorial

The Courier-News has an article about Elgin’s remembrance of two fallen firefighters.

A grand memorial at the Kimball Street River Walk is a powerful reminder of the tragic day, 40 years ago, that the Elgin Fire Department lost two of its own.

It was June 2, 1974, when fire Capt. Stanley Balsis, 45, and Michael Whalen, 25, died while trying to save a teenager from drowning.

On a dare, the teen took a blow-up raft over the Kimball Street Bridge dam and got caught in rough waters. When the boat Balsis and Whalen launched to save the teen slammed into a concrete wall and capsized, they fought for their lives, until the water proved too powerful an opponent and their comrades’ best efforts to save them failed. The teen was thrown from the water and survived.

[Sunday] — on the 40th anniversary of that tragic event — the Balsis family [threw] a wreath into the river to honor their father’s memory.

Throughout his life, Christopher McMillan, a grandson born long after Balsis passed away, has met a handful of local residents who vividly recall the tragedy.

Each of Balsis’ four children — Brad, Linda, Curt and Sharon — keeps his memory alive by displaying his firefighting memorabilia and pictures in their homes.

They are not alone in their grief. “I can still tell you, almost minute by minute, what happened that day,” said Patrick Crawford, who was then a 27-year-old paramedic in training and among the first to arrive at the scene. Five years later, Crawford quit, to pursue his part-time business, Elgin Medi-Transport Inc., full-time.

An unspoken grief

Larry Judkins, 68, is haunted by the image of Balsis and Whalen, “like clothes in a front-load washing machine,” struggling in the treacherous waters. The retired firefighter ruminates about what he could have done differently that day but realizes none of the scenarios would have changed the outcome. “The river is a dangerous place if you don’t respect it,” he said.

Flanked by stone columns topped with bronze fire helmets, the memorial is etched with headshot photographs of Balsis and Whalen in their formal uniforms, and inscribed with the story of their heroic last call. It serves as a reminder, not just on this day but every day, of the ultimate sacrifice two fallen heroes made in the line of duty.

thanks Dan

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Elgin memorial service remembers firefighters

The Daily Herald has an article about a memorial held for firefighters who perished in 1974.

Eight Elgin firefighters are listed on a wall at Elgin Fire Barn No. 5 Museum that honors those who died of injuries suffered on duty. Two had heart attacks; one injured a leg and died of the resulting infection; one died of a concussion; one was crushed under the wheels of a fire truck; and one died of a shotgun injury.

Saturday, firefighters remembered the two who lost their lives 40 years ago this summer, trying to save a teenager from drowning in the boil under the Kimball Street dam on the Fox River. Two teens had, on a dare, ridden a raft over the dam on the flood-swollen river. They capsized in the hydraulic roller, or boil, below the dam. One was thrown free; the other was stuck.

To his rescue came Station 2 Pipeman Michael Whalen and his captain, Stanley Balsis, said current Fire Chief John Fahy.

“They did what they are supposed to do. They got their boat in the water and they were the ready to go,” Fahy said of Balsis and Whalen.

Both were killed when their rescue boat capsized. Whalen died almost immediately when their boat slammed against the concrete wall of the dam.

Balsis held on to the capsized boat for 45 minutes, with a broken arm and a separated shoulder, battered by the roil. Efforts to save him proved fruitless, as he could not hang on to flotation devices firefighters threw to him to pull him out. The raging waters took him.

Both teenagers survived the tragedy.

Besides remembering three Illinois firefighters who died on the job in the past year, the representatives also detailed former members of their departments who have died in the last year.

“Once you are a firefighter, you are always a firefighter. It’s what you do. It’s what you wanted to do. It’s how you lived your lives,” Fahy said.

thanks Dan

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