LaPorte County, Ind. Funeral and visitation arrangements have been announced for Middlebrook.
Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday at Bethel College in Mishawaka. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, August 11, also at Bethel College. Burial will follow in New Carlisle Cemetery.
The firefighter who died in a massive business fire in LaPorte County Tuesday night has been identified as 41-year-old Asst. Chief Jamie Middlebrook. Middlebrook was a volunteer firefighter with the New Carlisle Fire Department.
The blaze broke out around 9 p.m. local time near U.S. 20 and 800 East. Multiple agencies from several counties responded to the fire at K-Fex, a septic pumping business. The address is listed as New Carlisle but technically this is in LaPorte County.
Two large explosions occurred just before 10:30 pm.
One of the major issues crews faced was accessing a reliable water supply. There were no fire hydrants at the scene and water was being transported in large tankers, before the fire was finally brought under control Wednesday morning.
Crews were able to recover Middlebrook's body around 1:30 a.m.
Middlebrook's father, Bob, is also a firefighter and was at the scene Tuesday night. He has been with the department for about 40 years. He is also survived by his wife, Julie, and mom, Carol.
Middlebrook had been a volunteer member of the department for 22 years. He was also a career EMT with New Carlisle EMS.
"You never want this to happen," said LaPorte Co. Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer. "These guys put their lives on the line all the time just to help the community. This is volunteer departments. They don't get paid for it. They do it because it's in their blood and they want to help people."
Middlebrook's body will be taken to a Lafayette hospital for an autopsy on Wednesday. His fellow firefighters lowered the flag outside the department after his death in his honor and many passers by have been honking their horns in support.
The LaPorte County coroner told NewsCenter 16 Middlebrook died from blunt force trauma and suffered a broken neck; injuries consistent with having a roof collapse on top of him.
Many have also shown support on Facebook by changing their profile picture to a New Carlisle Fire Dept. emblem with a black and red line across it. We're not sure where it originated from, but you can see it by clicking on "view gallery".
A second firefighter, Matt O'Donnell, was rescued from the blaze and taken to a local hospital. He suffered a broken ankle, minor burns and smoke inhalation, but has been released from the hospital.
Middlebrook and O'Donnell were partners on the New Carlisle ambulance and went into the fire together.
You may remember Asst. Fire Chief Jamie Middlebrook from a past story we did on NewsCenter 16. He was one of many who organized an event for one of their own battling cancer in the department. Middlebrook could relate because he, too, had battled cancer. Here is a link to that story from Barbara Harrington in May 2013.
Community members have begun leaving flowers outside the fire station by the flagpole in Middlebrook's honor; and a local church bought out all of the muffins from a nearby coffee shop to give to the firefighters who have been up all night and are exhausted both physically and emotionally.
Governor Mike Pence issued the following statement Wednesday morning:
“I was saddened to learn of the death of New Carlisle Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Middlebrook, who lost his life protecting the safety of Hoosiers. Today, Indiana mourns the loss of a true Hoosier hero. On behalf of the state, the First Lady and I extend our condolences to his family and friends and hold them in prayer during this difficult time.”
Details about Middlebrook's funeral and final honors should be released in the coming days. The Indiana FOP Critical Incident Memorial team is coming to assist with funeral arrangements.
This is a developing story. We will update this page with more information when it becomes available.