PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The company that owns the train which struck and killed a volunteer firefighter Saturday says its cooperating with officials.
Norfolk Southern says it didn’t know that searchers were out near the tracks in North Versailles Township Saturday night.
Search crews, including 57-year-old volunteer firefighter Edwin “Lance” Wentzel, had been looking for 55-year-old Ruth Mullennix of Wilmerding who has been missing since Monday.
While out searching for Mullennix Saturday night, Wentzel was tragically struck and killed by a train.
It’s unclear how Wentzel ended up struck by the train, but officials at Norfolk Southern say weren’t asked to stop the trains Saturday.
“The search team had contacted NS to stop trains in the area Thursday at 12:30 a.m. to conduct its search. NS stopped all traffic in compliance with that request. The search team withdrew that request about three hours later at 3:23 a.m., at which point Norfolk Southern resumed normal train operations. Neither the NS police nor the NS Pittsburgh dispatch center were notified on Saturday before the search team resumed its search on Norfolk Southern’ s property,” the statement read.
Loved one remembered Wentzel Sunday, laying a wreath outside of the Youngwood Volunteer Fire Department, where he gave 35 years of service.
“We lost a terrific firefighter,” said Fire Chief Lloyd Crago. “I lost a best friend to this department, to me and to this town. Lance was a key member of this department. He was involved in everything. He was doing what he loved to do to the last minute.”
Wentzel was a highly decorated member of a very close knit department. He was Firefighter of the Year 2012. He also served as a trustee and former assistant chief. His loss has shaken the 56-member department.
“It’s tragic, unexpected,” Crago said. “We got into this, we know there’s some dangers involved, but when it’s one of our own, one of your own, it hits you a little harder.”