‘He loved be­ing here’

Com­rades quickly bonded with young fire­fighter killed in NYC crash

The Dallas Morning News - - Metro & State - By TRIS­TAN HALLMAN Staff Writer thall­man@dal­las­news.com

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.”

Jae S. Lee/staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

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.

BRIAN MCDANIEL

TREVOR CADI­GAN

Rose Baca/staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

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.

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