‘He loved being here’
Comrades quickly bonded with young firefighter killed in NYC crash
Fire Station 36 Driver Devin Holt remembers making a quick judgment about an energetic young firefighter named Brian Mcdaniel, who first showed up for work last October at the West Dallas firehouse.
“He would crack some wisecrack and then smile like he was the cutest kid that ever walked through these doors,” said Holt, a 17-year veteran firefighter. “I thought, ‘Boy, he’s going to have a rough time around here.’”
But Mcdaniel, 26, grew on the crew quickly. He took their razzing and dished it back out. He picked up a nickname — Goose, partially a reference to a character in the movie Top Gun — and looked and acted the part of a firefighter.
Tuesday was Mcdaniel’s shift, but Goose won’t ever walk through the door again. Mcdaniel was one of five people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in New York City, where he was visiting a friend.
Mcdaniel’s fellow firefighters, with his gear behind them, said they were heartbroken by the death of someone with whom they shared 24-hour shifts every third day. They took turns talking about the outgoing guy who had firefighting in his blood, talked to them constantly about women and washed a lot of dishes. His lieutenant, Ray Smith, said he always looked forward to seeing Mcdaniel. His young colleague “made it fun to be at the fire station.”
But gone are the plans they discussed over the dinner table, such as going to the Texas Rangers’ opening-day game. So is the long, promising career at Dallas Fire-rescue that the other firefighters foresaw for Mcdaniel.
“It’s going to be just like a run he didn’t come back from for us,” Holt said.
Mcdaniel’s body returned home Tuesday on a flight to DFW International Airport.
His death is the latest of several tragedies endured by Dallas Fire-rescue in recent years. The department faced the near-death of William An after a shooting and the line-of-duty deaths of Stanley Wilson and William Scott Tanksley. Dallas Fire Capt. Kenneth “Luckey” Harris was killed in the West Fertilizer Co. plant explosion in 2013.
That is all on top of the strain of the day-to-day trauma firefighters see. Fire Chief David Coatney has been focused on firefighters’ mental health recently, especially after a firefighter’s suicide last year.
Smith said he couldn’t sleep after hearing about Mcdaniel’s death and has been sick to his stomach about it. Station 36 firefighter Daniel Fox said the fast-paced job often means putting difficult thoughts aside.
“When the bell hits, somebody is in distress,” Fox said. “Over the years, you kind of learn to shelve that stuff
and deal with it at a later time, and in some instances not deal with it at all . ... The grieving for me is yet to come, but those shelved emotions didn’t happen this time.”
Mcdaniel’s friends and teachers had shared their grief and stories about him Monday after they found out he was among the five who drowned after the helicopter fell into the East River. Only the pilot escaped.
Mcdaniel grew up in Dallas and graduated from Bishop Lynch High School, a private Catholic prep school in Far East Dallas. He played baseball and football there and was part of the cycling team.
He had gone to New York to visit Trevor Cadigan, his friend from Bishop Lynch who recently began working at Business Insider. Cadigan, a Southern Methodist University graduate, formerly interned at WFAA-TV, where his father works, and had also written for Guidelive.
Mcdaniel had kept friends such as Cadigan for years. And although he had only worked at Station 36 for five months, Mcdaniel had become family to his colleagues. Dallas Fire-rescue spokesman Jason Evans said Mcdaniel’s actual family told him Mcdaniel would talk constantly about his colleagues at the station.
“These are the types of things that, you ask any firefighter what you’re going to remember about your career, you’re going to remember some runs that you make, that you go out to, and some dramatic rescues and things of that nature,” Evans said. “But when you think about your job and your career and what held most value, it’s going to be the relationships you had with the people you work with.”
Evans said Mcdaniel had grasped what being a firefighter was all about early in his career.
And Holt said Mcdaniel always took the “agitation” of being a young firefighter in stride.
“He bounced back and always had a smile on his face,” Holt said. “He loved being here, and you could tell.”
Dallas firefighter Brian Mcdaniel’s casket was carried into Sparkman-crane Funeral Home on Tuesday by colleagues at Fire Station 36 as family members and friends grieved. Mcdaniel and Trevor Cadigan, a friend with Dallas roots whom he’d gone to visit, were killed in a helicopter crash.
An escort follows the hearse carrying the body of firefighter Brian Mcdaniel on Interstate 635. Mcdaniel, who’d been a member of Dallas Firerescue since October, picked up the nickname Goose — partially a reference to a character in the movie Top Gun.