ALEXANDER COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A firefighter died in the line of duty Monday night while working at the fire station in Taylorsville.
Eric "Bubba" Pennell, was at the station on Emergency Street when he suffered a medical emergency, fire officials say. EMS took Pennell to a medical facility where he later died.
"He was working on cleaning vehicles and one of the other firefighters that was there with him came around the side of the vehicle, saw that he had fallen to the floor," said Karyn Yaussy, representing the Central Alexander/Taylorsville Fire Department. "They tried to resuscitate him, they weren't able to do so. It's assumed that he had some kind of medical event, but we won't know anything else until the autopsy is completed."
Pennell, 49, has been with the Central Alexander Fire Department for 31 years, the station says. He was also a 911 telecommunicator with the Alexander County Sheriff's Department for 12 years.
"We ask that you please keep The Pennell Family as well as The Central Alexander/Taylorsville Fire Department in your thoughts and prayers," the Central Alexander Fire Department wrote on Facebook.
"For a firefighter to be somewhere 30 years, that's tremendous dedication, and when you talk to people about Bubba, they say he's dedicated," Yaussy added. "Quick with a joke, tried to lighten the mood, made sure people would feel included."
His family has released the following statement:
"Our family would like to thank everyone from all the emergency services in Taylorsville and Alexander County, the regional agencies who are helping, and friends and community members for their support during this difficult time. We ask for prayers and peace as we take time to grieve and heal in the days to come. He passed doing what he loved to do and was passionate about."
According to a press release, the provision of emergency services for the Central Alexander jurisdiction has not been compromised as a result of the loss of Fire Fighter Pennell. Fire Departments from across the region have banded together to cover their area with both emergency apparatus and personnel.
According to the Alexander County Sheriff's Office, friends are welcomed to honor Pennell's life Saturday at the Millersville Baptist Church at 1 p.m. The funeral service for Pennell will be held following the visitation at 4 p.m.