Relatives, colleagues and friends gathered Friday to honor the life of a Los Angeles firefighter who died two days after falling from a ladder during a training exercise.
Kelly Wong, 29, fell about six stories from the Los Angeles Fire Department aerial ladder while participating in an exercise in downtown Los Angeles on June 3. He died at a hospital.
A procession began about 8 a.m. at Main and First streets, led by an LAFD fire truck bearing the casket, followed by an honor guard and hundreds of mourners who walked north on Main Street and then heading west on Temple Street to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a “celebration of life” service, which began about 9 a.m. and ended shortly before 11 a.m.
“He was a big guy with a big heart,” LAFD Capt. Erik Scott said.
LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti were among the mourners. More than 1,000 uniformed personnel from law enforcement and firefighting organizations from numerous jurisdictions were on hand for the memorial.
“We are here today in this city of angels to celebrate the life of an angel,” Garcetti told the mourners. “Celebrating — each one of us — the courage and the hopes that we have, and to feel for a moment this love that surrounds us.
To Kelly’s family, I know you feel only sad and dull right now. I think all of us feel a piece of that, but you more deeply than anybody. But I hope you, too, also feel what love this has unleashed, an uncontrollable love, a love that has no limit; a love that encompasses the reflection of four million grateful people and beyond; the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters everywhere; the first responders; and of this city which depends on the courage and — depended on the courage of Kelly for us to live the lives that we do,” Garcetti said.
Terrazas said he had addressed Wong’s graduating class of firefighters two years earlier, telling them that they were going to become members of “a second family.”
“Kelly Wong was a man who loved his family, his friends, and the fire service,” Terrazas said. “And though he was only with us for a short time frame, he truly loved the Los Angeles Fire Department, and our department truly loved him.”
Following his remarks, Terrazas presented Wong’s service badge to his wife Danielle.
Wong, a two-year veteran, was assigned to Fire Station 92 in Rancho Park. He had been scheduled to transfer to Fire Station 9 serving downtown Los Angeles and Skid Row on June 12 and was working at that station at the time of the accident.
Wong graduated from the LAFD Recruit Academy on Terminal Island in August 2015 and was the top academic performer in his class.
“Kelly’s dream since he was a little boy was to be a firefighter,” Terrazas has said. “His mother, Ann, shared that story with me that Kelly liked to play with fire trucks growing up. He applied with several departments but he wanted to work for the best. He wanted to work for the Los Angeles Fire Department. And he accomplished his goal.”
Wong is survived by his wife Danielle; his infant son Colton; his mother Ann; his mother-in-law and father-in-law Barbara and Michael Quinlan; and his sisters-in-law Nicole and Stephanie. A private burial in Orange County was to follow the service.
Terrazas said the type of training in which Wong was killed will continue.
“When Kelly was injured, the crew at Fire Station 9 was training, and I always tell our people that the first thing, the most important thing that we do is respond to emergencies,” Terrazas said earlier. “The second most important thing we do is train to respond to emergencies. We will continue to train whether it be for a high-rise fire, a brush fire, a medical event, whatever incident type it is, we will continue to train to be ready so we can protect the people of this great city.”
The LAFD, in conjunction with state safety agencies, is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of Wong’s death.
Several streets were closed Friday morning in the area to accommodate the procession and service.
—City News Service