Boy who died saving relatives from fire laid to rest as 'firefighter'
Friends and relatives Wednesday paid their respects to Tyler Doohan, the 8-year-old upstate New York boy who helped rescue six relatives from a fire but then perished while trying to save his grandfather.
In a Mass at St. John of Rochester Catholic Church, Tyler was honored with a firefighter's funeral. The funerals of two other relatives who also died in the fire were held at the same time.
The church was filled with mourners, including basketball players from Wisconsin Silver Lake College, who were so moved by his story that they traveled to New York to be pallbearers.
In addition, firefighters from multiple jurisdictions stood at attention in Class A dress uniforms as bagpipers played traditional music, as is customary when a firefighter is laid to rest.
Penfield Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer declared Tyler an honorary firefighter and presented his family with a special fire helmet inscribed with the boy's name.
"This is a helmet we give to the family to symbolize that Tyler is indeed a part of the brotherhood of firefighters, as an honorary firefighter in Penfield," Ebmeyer said.
Tyler's mother, Crystal Vrooman, spoke of her son.
"You're a hero, baby," she said through tears. "You did it huge. I know you're watching this go on, and you should be so proud of yourself."
Tyler's fourth-grade teacher, Denise Alfieri, also spoke at the service, "Monday January 20th was the day that changed our lives forever," she said, reflecting on the loss felt in her classroom the day the boy perished. "There is an emptiness and a void that now fills Room 240."
Tyler, an East Rochester resident, was staying at the home of relatives in Penfield on January 19 when he noticed a fire in the singlewide trailer, officials said.
As firefighters and sheriff's deputies responded to a 4:45 a.m. emergency call, Tyler was able to wake six other people in the small trailer, including two more children, ages 4 and 6, the fire officials said.
Then Tyler went back into the blaze to help his grandfather, who was disabled and would have been unable to get out of the home on his own. "By that time, the fire had traveled to the back of the trailer," Ebmeyer said at the time. "Unfortunately, they both succumbed to heat and smoke."
The pair were found together on a bed in the back room. It appeared that the boy was trying to lift his grandfather from the bed when he was overcome by the smoke and fire, fire officials said.