Community pays tribute to fallen first responder

News Story – 3rd Place

 – By Kristy Zurbrick, Columbus Messenger

“He had an infectious smile. He loved working for our township. He loved all the jobs he had.”

Jefferson Township Fire Chief Paul “Buck” Van Horn chokes up when talking about his co-worker, firefighter and paramedic Bradley J. Haynes of London, who died in a helicopter accident on Jan. 29.

Haynes worked full-time for Jefferson Township Fire. He also worked part-time for the Hamilton Township Fire Department in Franklin County and part-time as a flight nurse for Survival Flight Inc., an emergency medical air transportation service.

Haynes, 48, was one of three people aboard a Survival Flight helicopter that crashed in Vinton County in southeast Ohio. The pilot, Jennifer L. Topper, 34, of Sunbury, and flight nurse Rachel L. Cunningham, 33, of Galloway, also died in the crash.

The crew had left Mount Carmel Grove City hospital the morning of Jan. 29 to pick up a patient at Holzer Meigs Hospital in Pomeroy. At about 7:20 a.m., Survival Flight notified the Ohio State Highway Patrol that communication had been lost with the helicopter. The wreckage was found about three hours later in a forested area near Zaleski. The crash remains under investigation.

Van Horn had known Haynes since 1996 when he was chief at the London Fire Department and Haynes worked for the Madison County Emergency Medical District. Both men went to work for the Jefferson Township Fire Department in 2002.

“Brad took great pride in his skills as a firefighter and a medic. He poured all of his energy into everything he did,” Van Horn said.

That included his five children and his many hobbies, which ran from karate and harness racing to dog training, duck hunting and raising cattle.

Van Horn said he will never forget the last conversation he had with Haynes, which took place over the phone just days before the accident. Van Horn said he could hear in Haynes’s voice that he was happy.

“He said he just really liked his work and that he had a new found appreciation for how important family was to him. He said he was in a really good place in his life,” Van Horn said. “I’m glad I had that conversation with him.”

Haynes’s body was transported from Vinton County to Madison County on Jan. 31. Van Horn said it was a “very powerful and emotional trip.” Law enforcement escorted the procession, and various emergency response departments took part along the route.

On the way to Eberle-Fisher Funeral Home in London, the procession went through West Jefferson, past the Jefferson Township Fire Station where Haynes’s fellow firefighters and paramedics had laid out his turnout gear.

The same outpouring of support and respect was shown when Haynes was laid to rest on Feb. 4. Following services at St. John’s Lutheran Church in London, the funeral procession made its way to West Jefferson, stopping once again in front of the fire station before going on to Deercreek Township Cemetery.

Departments from Cleveland to Cincinnati took part in the procession. Students from Norwood Elementary lined the route. At the cemetery, a flag and Haynes’s helmet were presented to his family. Bagpipes played, Survival Flight performed a flyover, and a final dispatch was called in Haynes’s honor. The tribute also included a bell ceremony.

“It’s a firefighting tradition. They would ring a bell three times to let everyone know they were back in quarters. It’s kind of like they are home,” Van Horn said.

A public memorial service was held Feb. 6 in Grove City for all three members of the Survival Flight crew. Funeral services for flight nurse Rachel Cunningham took place on Feb. 5. Services for pilot Jennifer L. Topper will take place later this month in California.