News

Hanover firefighter dies after responding to fire

Written by Chris Cappella/Hanover Evening Sun | Mar 14, 2016 1:02 AM
earl_Shoemaker.jpg

Earl J. Shoemaker, 68, a volunteer Hanover Fire Department firefighter that died Saturday March 12, 2016 while driving Hanover's Air 46 mobile air supply unit to the scene of a house fire in West Manheim Township. Shoemaker had served for more than 40 years as a volunteer with Eagle Fire Company #2 in Hanover. Courtesy of Hanover Fire Department

(Hanover) -- A veteran Hanover firefighter died after responding to a fire in West Manheim Township Saturday morning.

An autopsy is scheduled for today to learn more details, York County Coroner Pam Gay said.

Around 9:30 a.m., Earl J. Shoemaker, 68, was the driver of Hanover Fire Department's Air 46 unit when the truck went off Brunswick Drive and into a field -- traveling as far as several hundred yards.

Fire crews rushed to the scene, which was about a mile from where a home was reported to be on fire on Pumping Station Road.

Crews got Shoemaker out of the truck and onto a stretcher.

Ivan Cornwell, a troop master with Trail Life USA, was doing first aid training with middle and high school students a few hundred yards from the scene when he heard sirens. He and one other person went to assist a driver in the truck who, Cornwell said, was unconscious.

"We tried to get his attention and tried to get him to respond to us. Unfortunately, the driver's door was at about a 10-foot drop into a creek," he said. "Even with the ambulance workers, we had a difficult time getting him out of the vehicle."

About an hour later, Shoemaker was pronounced dead at Hanover Hospital, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

Shoemaker was the only person in the truck at the time, according to a news release from Hanover-Penn Fire Chief Jan Cromer. West Manheim Township Police Department is investigating what happened to cause Shoemaker to drive off the road.

Shoemaker was a volunteer member of Eagle Fire Company #2 with Hanover Fire Department for more than 40 years, the release states.

Marissa Dubina, who lived down the street from Shoemaker, said he was kind and could relate to people of all ages.

"If he saw my grandkid, he would make it a point to come outside and ask what she was learning in school," she said. "He was involved with the fire department for as long as I've been here. He was a great guy."

His family indicated they weren't ready to speak. Other fire officials were not prepared to speak about Shoemaker.

'All hell broke loose'

Shoemaker was responding to the scene of a house fire on the 500 block of Pumping Station Road, said Miles Morris, Pleasant Hill Volunteer Fire Company assistant fire chief.

Crews responded to the fire around 9 a.m., Morris said. Seven people were in the duplex when the fire started but no one was injured, he said.

The property on the left side of the duplex is considered a total loss, with some fire and smoke damage entering the right side, he said.

Casey Cook, a next door neighbor of the home where the fire broke out, said he was driving home from errands when he got to the top of a hill on Pumping Station Road and saw the smoke.

He pulled into his driveway and, without turning his car off, ran and grabbed his garden hose to spray water on the burning home. The owners of the destroyed duplex home were also outside attempting to spray down the home. But it was no use.

Arriving police officers told them to get away.

"It literally happened in seconds," he said of the fire consuming the home. "Then all hell broke loose."

Cook would later hear news about Shoemaker crashing into a field.

"It's been a really bad day," he said.

Debbie Clabaugh, a friend of the family who lived in the home where the fire broke out, said she was praying with her friend as she watched firefighters handle the blaze.

Firefighters would rescue the family's dog and three cats, though at least one cat needed medical attention, Clabaugh said.

By 6 p.m., a home restoration company was placing large pieces of plywood over the front of the home, which the fire had torn open.

The Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, Morris said.

York Daily Record staff writer Gordon Rago contributed to this report

Line of duty deaths

Shoemaker's death marks the first line of duty death for a firefighter in Hanover since Dec. 29, 1999, according to the US Fire Administration which keeps records on firefighter fatalities. 

There have been a total of seven firefighter fatalities in York County since 1990, a search of their website indicated.

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