Volunteer firefighter mourned by peers

Waybright collapsed while training for full-time job with Frederick County

Carroll County

July 07, 2002|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

Carroll County firefighters are mourning the death of one of their own - Harney volunteer Andrew J. Waybright, who died Wednesday morning while training for a full-time job with the Frederick County fire service.

Mr. Waybright, 23, was in his third day of training for the Frederick County job when he collapsed just after 8 a.m. and was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

The state medical examiner's office determined that the cause of death was heat exposure. The temperature was 84 degrees and the heat index was 96 degrees at the time he collapsed, a Frederick County emergency services spokesman said.

"It was hyperthermia with no complicating factors," said J. B. Hanson, deputy director of public relations for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Carroll County firefighters who knew Mr. Waybright, a volunteer firefighter at Harney and a paid emergency medical technician at Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company, struggled Friday to come to terms with his death.

"We deal with life and death all the time and it's always somebody else. And this one is not somebody else," said an emotional Don Yingling, Harney fire chief. "I've known the family all their lives. I knew Andy since he was born. It's a hell of a loss to me. He's like family."

Mr. Yingling's initial reaction was disbelief when he heard about Mr. Waybright, who joined the Harney Volunteer Fire Co. at age 16.

"Andy grew up on a farm. They're out in the heat, doing all this strenuous work - they're strong," he said. "But all our bodies are different, and we have a breaking point."

Mr. Waybright was part of a tight-knit group of firefighters and emergency medical services members who depended on one another during calls, the fire chief said.

"In every fire department, you have different groups, and there is a bond that is generated between the guys that do the actual firefighting, a bond that's really close. And Andy was one in that group," Mr. Yingling said. "We're a small firehouse, and when you go out on a call, you put your life in their hands, and vice versa."

Mr. Yingling recalled how excited Mr. Waybright was about training for the Frederick fire service.

"Monday was his first day at the academy, and he was like a kid waiting for his first day of school," he said. "We had a call Tuesday night, and we just sat around afterward talking. This was what he wanted to do."

Mr. Waybright was engaged. He and his fiancee, Jennifer Reisinger of Taneytown, were building a home on his parents' property in Gettysburg, Pa., Mr. Yingling said.

Mr. Waybright's father, James Waybright, is president of the Harney fire company. His mother, Shirley Waybright, and two brothers, Bradley and Christopher, also are involved in the fire company.

Leon Fleming, a county liaison for the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association and a Carroll fire training center instructor, said, "It's shocking. I trained him, I had him a couple of times in firefighting classes. He was a very nice gentleman."

Harney member Elwood Strickhouser said Mr. Waybright "was well thought of by everybody. We miss him. ... All I can say is good things about him."

Marianne Warehime, second vice president of the county association, said the group extends its deepest sympathies to the family and the Harney station.

"It's a very sad day losing someone who was so involved in the fire service," she said. "It's so unbelievable that someone who was doing what he really wanted to do in life had it cut short. It's such a shame, it really is."

Mr. Waybright was born in Hanover, Pa., and was a 1997 graduate of Gettysburg High School. He was a member of Mount Joy Lutheran Church and Good Samaritan Masonic Lodge 336.

A viewing will be held 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Harney fire station, 5130 Harney Road. A fire department funeral will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Church of the Abiding Presence on the campus of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary. Deacon Charles Barnhart, a fire department chaplain, will officiate. Internment will be in Mount Joy Lutheran Church Cemetery, 2615 Taneytown Road, Gettysburg.

Memorials may be made to the Harney Volunteer Fire Company or Mount Joy Lutheran Church.

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