Susan LeBar | Democrat
TAKING PART IN a memorial service for three Narrowsburg firefighters killed in an accident 30 years ago were, from the left, Assistant Chief Michael Hector, Kathleen Hankins Johnson, Pete Hankins, Donna McGinnis and Pastor Don Beck.
Remembering firefighters' tragic deaths 30 years later
By Susan LeBar
NARROWSBURG On August 29 at the Narrowsburg Firehouse, a somber memorial service was held for three young Narrowsburg firemen who lost their lives 30 years ago.
Paul Brock, Jay Laraia, and Brett Hankins in their late teens and early 20s were on their way back from participating in the Northeast Pennsylvania Firemen’s Federation Parade in Montrose, south over the border from Binghamton. According to police reports the three-quarter ton truck they were driving, known as a “Brush Rabbit” and used against brush fires, went out of control, rolled over and burst into flames, killing two instantly while the third held on for a couple days with extensive burns before he also died from his injuries.
Pastor Don Beck, who has held the memorial service every 10 years for the young firefighters, was Fire Chief at the time and vowed that the young men would be memorialized.
“I remember like it was yesterday. These young men were part of a small community and they loved the fire department and answering the call,” Beck said. “They were dedicated and proud to do what they did. They grew up together and they were just fine young men. A plaque in their honor hangs over the door to the firehouse as a remembrance to them. These young men could not do enough for their department and it is with great honor that I host today’s memorial service to remember them.”
Members of the young men’s family were also on hand to participate in the service, and the tragic day has imprinted itself on their memory.
“The entire town was in mourning over this loss. The boys grew up together and they were very close,” said Donna McGinnis, Brett Hankins’ sister. “I lost a brother and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him and I am so glad that they have this memorial service to honor them.”
“I can remember at the 20-year service my mom went to each of the graves and laid flowers, it seems like it was just yesterday,” said Kathleen Hankins Johnson, also a sister to Brett. “The community [was] heartbroken and everyone just embraced one another. It is still hard to this day to believe.”
Brett’s brother, Pete, added, “When this event happened it not only affected the three families, it hit home for everyone in Narrowsburg. I do believe that that was the only year the Narrowsburg 4th of July celebration was cancelled. It was a sad day for everyone and this service that Pastor Beck continues to do means a lot to all of us.”
Assistant Chief Michael Hector was also at the service and stated, “Today we are honoring three of our fallen brothers and just two years ago we lost another young member of our department in the war (referring to Anthony Kaiser) so as we participate in this service we will remember them and after this we are on our way to the Sullivan County Fireman’s Parade and we will be driving our truck today in memory of Paul Brock, Jay Laraia, Brett Hankins and Anthony Kaiser, the four angels we know still come to every with us and do their best to keep us safe as we respond to help others.”
The 30th Anniversary service was attended by over 50 people who came to pay their respect to the fireman who gave the ultimate sacrifice of life to something they loved the most being a fireman.