PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Family and friends said goodbye this morning to a firefighter who lost his life in the line of duty.
Edwin J. “Lance” Wentzel, 57, was laid to rest today.
The funeral began at 11 a.m. and hundreds gathered to pay their respects.
“It hits really close to home. We came to pay our respects,” said Moriah Barnhart, a mourner. “They’re doing this out of the kindness of their heart. It’s a calling. It’s in their blood.”
Wentzel was remembered inside the science building of the Westmoreland Community College.
Wentzel was hit and killed by a train while searching for missing woman over the weekend.
During the very solemn ceremony, he was remembered as a kind and gracious man, a good son, brother, a runner and a firefighter.
Wentzel took two weeks off after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and drove to New York to help out at Ground Zero.
That was the kind of person Wentzel was.
“I’ve been the commissioner 14 years, and this is the worst part of my job,” said State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann.
Commissioner Mann said what Wentzel was doing defines what the modern day emergency operator, or first responder does.
Firefighters just don’t fight fires. They go to car accidents and search for missing people. In every instance, there is always an element of danger in which one can lose their life.
“The fire service anymore, it’s all hazards,” said Commissioner Mann. “There’s not much the fire service doesn’t do anymore. In this case, Lance was out doing a ground search for a missing person and was tragically killed.”
Several hundred firefighters from around the area attended the service.
KDKA-TV’s Ross Guidotti asked Commissioner Mann what can be learned from all of this because something good has to come out of this tragedy.
Mann said it’s too early to know. But in the end, when the action reports are taken, they hope they can learn something from the tragic event that will keep another firefighter from losing their life.
Wentzel’s service ended with his hearse leading the way to his final resting place at Westmoreland County Memorial Park. Behind him, a parade of brothers and sisters, passing under a flag-draped hero’s arch escorting him home.
Wentzel is survived by his wife, two children, two stepchildren and three grandchildren.