TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY
Central Square, N.Y. — As the fire engine adorned with mourning bunting passed by, Central Square firefighters offered a final salute for one of their own.
Benjamin Springer’s casket was aboard the engine, part of a procession of two dozen fire trucks, police vehicles and a pace car from Watkins Glen International, that led the way from s funeral home in North Syracuse to a cemetery in the Oswego County hamlet of Mallory, where Springer was laid to rest.
Springer, 25, died on Nov. 5 in an industrial accident at a National Grid facility in Clay.
He was just a few classes and a test away from becoming a certified millwright. He was finishing the final year of a four-year apprenticeship with Millwrights Local 1163.
The day of his death, Springer was working with C&S Companies, subcontracted by National Grid to do work at the utility company’s facility on Henry Clay Boulevard. Springer was loading steel support beams onto a flatbed trailer when, at around 11:19 a.m., the load shifted and the beams fell off the trailer and onto him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Springer grew up in the Central Square Fire Department. His parents, Stephen and Kay Springer, are lifelong members. His two uncles and cousin are firefighters. He followed his family into the volunteer department nearly six years ago when he was 19.
He’s been on hundreds of calls. He helped save the life of a man in full cardiac arrest. He was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant and received the Chief’s Award in 2019, one of the highest honors in the department.
On Thursday, he took his final ride as a Central Square firefighter, his life honored by those closest to him.
Loved ones remembered Springer as energetic and gifted at working with his hands.
As a kid, Springer’s nickname was “Stinker,” for “every reason you would call someone little a stinker,” said his mom, Kay. As he got older, the nickname turned into “Tinker,” as Springer took a liking to building and taking apart anything he could get his hands on. The nickname stuck with him into adulthood.
Springer played the tuba and sousaphone at Central Square High School, where he was also a member of the marching band and color guard. After graduating in 2013, Springer attended Lincoln Technical Institute in Connecticut, where he studied automotive technology.
Springer never sat still. Along with serving the fire department and working as a millwright, Springer worked as mechanic at Reymore Chevrolet in Central Square. He was also an avid motorcyclist, kayaker and fisherman.
Since 2016, Springer spent his summer weekends at Watkins Glen International, where he was a member of the racetrack fire department.
Dennis Hotaling, a past chief at Central Square and current assistant chief at the race track, got Springer into the gig. From April to November, they spent just about every weekend together at the track. Springer was training to become a captain at the track’s fire department.
“He always had a big smile on his face,” Hotaling said. “Everyone on the team is going to miss him.”
Despite his young age, Springer was a leader at the Central Square Fire Department. He spent two years as an assistant engineer, served as the company’s clerk, in addition to spending the last year as a lieutenant.
He took on other roles at the department, too.
Decorated fire trucks from fire departments across Central New York gather every year for the Parade of Lights celebration in Baldwinsville. Springer always took charge of Central Square’s display, so the department will be left now to fill the light he left behind.
Any time the department held a fire prevention event for the public, Springer was there. He was eager to visit area schools in his full firefighter gear and speak to the students, always excited to talk to people and share a laugh.
His parents and friends said they admired Springer’s bravery and outgoing nature.
“He had a short life, but he had a full life,” said Todd Spink, Springer’s uncle and a fellow firefighter.
The trauma firefighters see as part of their work makes it easier to process a loss like this, Spink said, but they’re still hurting.
“We’re a little better equipped to deal with it, but we still feel the same things everyone else does,” Spink said. “It’s still hurts.”
Springer’s funeral was held Thursday morning in North Syracuse. Fire departments along the route of the 16-mile processional, including Brewerton and Central Square, flew large American flags from outreached ladder trucks and saluted as the processional passed by on their way to the cemetery, his final resting place.
“He’s going to be pissed that he’s going to be stuck in one spot,” his mom said.
Hotaling’s, the fire chief, said Springer was the future of the Central Square Fire Department. He planned on staying there for the long haul. Hotaling said he’s sure Springer would’ve been the fire chief one day.
“The world needs more people like Ben Springer,” Hotaling said.
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