PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all commonwealth facilities, public buildings, and grounds in Philadelphia County to fly their flags at half-staff to honor the death of Philadelphia Fire Department Lieutenant Sean Williamson.
Williamson, 51, died in the line of duty on Saturday, June 18, 2022, after a building collapsed, killing Williamson and injuring five others.
The fire was reported just before 2 a.m. Saturday in the building in north Philadelphia, eight occupants were safely evacuated and the fire had been declared under control, officials said. At 3:24 a.m., the building collapsed, Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said.
Lt. Williamson was pronounced dead at the scene after he and another firefighter were freed from the rubble hours after the collapse. Three other firefighters and an inspector with the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections had been freed quickly. One firefighter jumped from the second story to avoid being caught in the collapse, Murphy said. Two firefighters were listed in critical but stable condition at Temple University Hospital while the other three victims were treated and released, officials said.
Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel told reporters Saturday evening that rescuers “were able to communicate with” Williamson and another firefighter for most of the several hours they remained trapped, but because of the degree of the collapse and where Williamson was located within the structure “we were not able to save him.”
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The former Marine was “highly respected throughout our department” and had trained “countless” cadets, Thiel said. Williamson is to have a “full honors” fire department funeral “and given the outpouring of support that I’ve seen and we’ve seen as a department, you can expect this to be a pretty large event.”
“We’re absolutely grieving, we’re mourning,” Thiel said. “We have a lot more crying and a lot more processing to do this unfolds as we move forward with properly honoring Lt. Williamson,” he said. Murphy had told reporters at a briefing at about 8 a.m. Saturday that: “It’s going to be a rough few weeks coming up.”
Mayor Jim Kenney called it “a heartbreaking day for our city.”
Commonwealth flags should be flown at half-staff until sunset on Friday, June 24, 2022, as well as on the day of Lieutenant Williamson’s funeral.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.