Family of fallen Pineville firefighter join hundreds at 9/11 stair climb

Family of fallen Pineville firefighter join hundreds at 9/11 stair climb

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The family of fallen firefighter Richard Sheltra joined hundreds of firefighters from across the area to participate in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in uptown Charlotte.

The event is held annually at the Duke Energy Center and firefighters, along with the public, climb the building's 110 floor. The building matches the height of each of World Trade Center Tower.

The climb is a tribute to the first responders who died while climbing the WTC towers, in New York, making rescues after the terrorist attack on September 11.

"Just thinking about what these guys went through while they were climbing the stairs," said firefighter Chevis Sexton. "Just the drive they had and knowing they may not come home."

Sexton is a member of the Homeland Park Fire Department in Anderson, South Carolina. Members of the fire department drove two hours Saturday morning to participate in the climb.

"Every shift when I go in, I think about that. Every run we go on, you never know," Sexton said. "We do the same things these guys done every day. Like the chief said, at the firehouse, at the kitchen table, in the bunk room - we do the same thing and you never know. That run may come in that - you may not come home."

Members of fallen firefighter Richard Sheltra's family were out at the climb as well.

Sheltra was a member of Pineville's Volunteer Fire Department. He was killed April when he responded to a fire, started by a lightning strike, at the Edwin Watts golf store along the 8500-block of Pineville-Matthews Road.

Investigators said Sheltra died as a result of smoke inhalation product as a result of combustion. He reportedly made a "mayday" call about  minutes after arriving at the fire.

Over the radio, you can hear firefighters at the scene say Sheltra got lost in the building. He was ultimately found "in distress" before he was brought out of the building, according to a report from the department. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, but did not survive.

"[The event is] pretty amazing. It's really joyful, honestly. A lot of people are asking if it's hard. Yeah, it's hard, but it's how Richard would want to be remembered," his sister, Tyler Sheltra said. "So we're just excited that we can be a part of it and these men and women have welcomed us into their homes, as one of them. I'm so proud of my dad for climbing. He's a retired firefighter so I'm just supporting him while we're here."

Richard Sheltra's badge number with Pineville Fire was 73.

"It's pretty amazing to see almost all of Pineville out here climbing for the 9/11 survivors and those that we've lost, just kinda showing the comradery and the brotherhood," Tyler Sheltra said. "It's really special, this year is a little different than any other stair climb because we're honoring my brother and floor 73 is pretty significant to us, so we've sponsored that and will be up there cheering on all these brave men and women in our community."

A display was set up on the 73rd floor to honor Sheltra.

Pineville Fire Chief Michael Gerin says the department has been taking part in the event since it started.

"Everybody in the fire service knows somebody that has passed away or somebody that went before them, so it's kinda another way to remember those who went before us," Chief Gerin said. "For us to be able to wake up and to give us a reason to remember Richard and to have his parents with us, that's a big thing."

Sheltra's family was also selling T-shirts with his badge number on the back to help raise funds for the Richard Sheltra Memorial Foundation.

The foundation's purpose is provide volunteer firefighter's with the opportunity to have proper education and adequate turnout gear that they might be lacking.

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