As several thousand people, including firefighters from across the nation, gathered in Maine to honor the life of one of their own, a fire chief in attendance suffered a medical emergency and later died.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills says Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sacco died after attending Sunday's funeral for Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes, who was fatally injured shielding a colleague while battling a four-alarm fire on March 1.
"Our hearts, already broken by the loss of Captain Joel Barnes, also mourn the loss of Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sacco. In a testament to his own character, Chief Sacco lost his life while honoring that of his fallen brother, fellow firefighter Captain Barnes," Gov. Mills said on Twitter. "I join with people across Maine in offering my thoughts and prayers to Chief Sacco’s family and friends, the Oxford Fire Department, and all of Maine’s first responders. The State of Maine has given two of its best to the Heavens."
Maine Medical Center spokesman Matt Wickenheiser confirmed that Sacco was stricken at the funeral, rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead in the emergency room.
Sacco served in the Oxford Fire Department starting in 2017 after he retired from New Gloucester where he was fire chief for 12 years, affiliate WCSH reports. He also served in the Auburn Fire Department.
The staff of the Oxford Fire Department planned to gather Sunday evening to mourn the loss of Chief Sacco.
Sacco was among hundreds of firefighters from across New England who attended the public memorial for Barnes at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.