An emotional fire chief choked back tears this morning as he identified the two veteran firefighters who died while fighting a blaze at an apartment building in Kansas City, Missouri, last night.
The killed firefighters were Larry Leggio, a 17-year veteran, and John Mesh, a 13-year veteran, Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said at a news conference this morning, his voice trembling as he spoke.
Leggio is survived by his wife, mother and many immediate family members, Berardi said, while Mesh is survived by his wife, four young daughters and many family members.
Berardi said he knew both men personally.
"I'm extremely proud of the professionalism of on-scene personnel as well as the response to the tragedy," he said. "In these times, what helps us get through these times is how professional the department responded and how we reacted to the situation. We will continue to do our job as we do every day."
Leggio and Mesh had rescued at least two people from the scene, Berardi said, before the structure collapsed just after 8 p.m.
"Four firefighters were reported trapped by the collapse," an emotional Berardi said this morning. "The rapid intervention team witnessed the collapse. ... They located uncovered and removed four firefighters from the immediate area."
Leggio and Mesh were pronounced dead at the hospital after paramedics, nurses and doctors attempted to revive them, the fire department said. Two other firefighters were hospitalized to be treated for injuries.
"The outpouring of sympathy and compassion was expressed to the families last night," Berardi said.
"We extended, of course, any help and condolences we could to the family members. ... Unfortunately this is one thing we know how to do," Berardi said, choking up.
A complete investigation of the fire is ongoing, the department said.