NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Two cousins who were killed in an Arizona wildfire last month with 17 other members of an elite Hotshots firefighting crew were remembered in California on Saturday.
A public memorial service was held for Grant McKee, 21, and Robert Caldwell, 23, at a church in Newport Beach. More than 300 people attended, including firefighters from Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.
Tools, uniforms and boots were displayed near an altar next to McKee’s and Caldwell’s portraits, according to the Orange County Register (http://bit.ly/1aAvUaO ).
The cousins were among 19 firefighters who were killed June 30 when they were overrun by flames. The crew’s 20th member survived.
McKee was engaged and training to become an emergency medical technician. Caldwell was a newlywed and worked as a squad boss with the Hotshots.
McKee’s former youth football coach Kirk Norton spoke of his upbeat attitude and relentless spirit.
“I met him as a team player and he went down as a team player,” Norton said. “I really miss my hero.”
McKee’s father, Scott McKee, praised his son and nephew for their courage and strength to do their jobs.
“They didn’t fall, they rose,” Scott McKee said. “I wish I was half the man my son was.”
Caldwell’s sister, Taylor Caldwell, said the pair were “brothers,” adding that McKee joined the Granite Mountain Hotshots to work with his cousin.
“Devastation is not the appropriate word for the situation,” she said. “I know they are up there and just saying, ‘We did what we loved.’”
Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com