The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Dec. 30—The Lackawanna County coroner is investigating the death of a 28-year-old city firefighter, Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said.
Stephen Sunday, a firefighter since January, died Tuesday morning at Geisinger Community Medical Center. Sunday’s death was “sudden” and “unexpected,” according to a statement from the city.
“Stephen’s passion and drive to be a firefighter was apparent to anyone who knew him,” said Fire Chief John Judge in the statement. “When you spoke with Stephen you could immediately tell he was born to be a firefighter and loved this job tremendously. This profession was truly his calling. Our heartfelt sympathies and condolences go out to Stephen’s family and loved ones.”
Sunday was sworn in as a firefighter Jan. 21.
Firefighter Jim Sable, the union president, said Sunday had an “all-in attitude.” He came to work early and stayed late. Around the firehouse, they knew Sunday as “Ox,” a nickname he earned because Sunday was a “big guy” who could move fast, Sable said. Sunday “felt like he won the lottery” when he become a firefighter.
“I wish we had 100 more like him,” Sable said.
Additional information about Sunday’s death was not immediately available.
Cognetti directed that all city buildings fly flags at half staff for 30 days in Sunday’s honor.City council President Bill Gaughan called the young firefighter’s death an “unspeakable tragedy.”
City Councilman Mark McAndrew called the loss “devastating” to the community and Sunday’s family.
“This is someone’s son,” McAndrew said. “To lose a firefighter, a son … it’s very sad.”
Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland said an autopsy would be performed today.
Sunday was a standout catcher on baseball teams of West Scranton High School, West Scranton Legion, Sullivan County Community College and St. Thomas Aquinas College, said West Scranton High School teacher and former coach George “Skip” Roskos.
As a teen, Sunday spent most of his free time at Battaglia-Cawley Field in West Side.
“He was the type of kid who would come down on his off-days and rake the field and cut the grass,” Roskos said. “He showed great leadership capability from a young age.”Sunday impressed his teammates. By age 15, he stood out for his prowess as a catcher. When older pitchers were going to be on the mound, they wanted Sunday behind the plate, Roskos recalled.
After having baseball as his passion during his teens and early 20s, Sunday “then really committed himself to a life of (public) service,” as an EMT and a firefighter, Roskos said.
As news of Sunday’s death spread, fire departments from around the state, as well as members of the public, posted messages of sympathy on social media.
The Scranton Police Department posted on Facebook “The Scranton Police Department would like to send our condolences to our brothers & sisters in the Scranton Fire Department as they mourn the loss of one of their members. We are here for you and mourn with you.”
Jim Lockwood, staff writer, contributed to this report.
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