Today, Captain Sean Killelea of the Warren Township (IN) Fire Department received the 2015 Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award. Captain Killelea also serves as a volunteer firefighter for the University of Notre Dame.
President and Chief Executive Officer of PennWell Corporation, Mr. Robert Biolchini, presented the award at the Opening Ceremony of FDIC International on April 22, 2015. Mr. Biolchini also serves as a current member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees.
On the evening of August 5, 2014, the New Carlisle (IN) Fire Department responded to a reported commercial fire in Willis Township, Indiana. There was heavy fire on arrival, and a defensive attack was initiated. Acting Chief Jamie Middlebrook and Firefighter Matt O’Donnell stretched a 2½-inch handline with a ground monitor into the attached exposure to try to protect numerous acetylene cylinders. They did not know that the fire was in the truss space above the pan ceiling. The truss system failed, trapping Middlebrook and injuring O’Donnell.
Warren Township Fire Department’s Squad 18 and a box chief on a commercial fire responded as mutual aid. Squad 18 Captain Sean Killelea and Firefighters Jay Pendergrass and Aaron Carsten were assigned to staff an attack line in the ongoing defensive operations. Command rescinded the assignment and instructed them to follow the hoseline already advanced into the building to respond to a call for two firefighters trapped inside the structure following a collapse.
They followed the hoseline up to the edge of the collapse. The east wall of the collapse was fully involved in fire. They followed the hoseline until they encountered the collapse. Killelea and his crew battled horrific conditions. The building was coming down around them. They were surrounded by fire and collapse and, at one point, were forced to take cover under a truck in a barn to avoid being caught in a further collapse. Killelea and his crew were able to locate O’Connell, who was pulled to the door with the help of New Carlisle Engine 191. Chief Middlebrook, however, was under the roof system that had fallen on him. After the fire condition was sufficiently knocked down, heavy equipment removed the roof system from the chief’s body, which was removed to an ambulance.
Captain Killelea has been in the fire service since 1999.
The Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award is named in honor of the late Fire Department of New York Deputy Chief Ray Downey, who lost his life in the attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. At this year’s FDIC International, Killelea was presented with the Courage and Valor medal, as well as a check for $35,000.
It was twenty years ago last week that the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK occurred. At the time, PennWell President and CEO, Mr. Robert Biolchini, called FDNY Deputy Chief Ray Downey, who also served on the Fire Engineering advisory board, to write an article on the bombing for the magazine. Biolchini’s close friend, then Governor Frank Keating, recognizing Downey’s nationwide expertise in collapse rescue, asked for Downey in an official capacity as the head of FEMA’s urban search and rescue teams to respond to the bombing site, where he worked the rubble pile for nineteen days straight.
PennWell Corporation is a diversified business-to-business media and information company that provides quality content and integrated marketing solutions for the following industries: Oil and gas, electric power, water, electronics, semiconductor, contamination control, optoelectronics, fiberoptics, enterprise storage, fire, emergency services and dental. Founded in 1910, PennWell publishes 75 print and online magazines and newsletters, conducts 60 conferences and exhibitions on six continents, and has an extensive offering of books, maps, web sites, research and database services. In addition to PennWell’s headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma the company has major offices in Nashua, New Hampshire; Houston, Texas; London, England, Campbell, California; Fairlawn, New Jersey; Moscow, Russia; and Hong Kong, China.