'He died as he lived, helping others': Montreal firefighter who died in line of duty honoured

·3 min read
'He died as he lived, helping others': Montreal firefighter who died in line of duty honoured
A funeral was held today at the Notre-Dame Basilica honouring Pierre Lacroix, a married father of two daughters, who died during a water rescue earlier this month. A procession preceding the funeral drew some 3,000 people from across North America.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A funeral was held today at the Notre-Dame Basilica honouring Pierre Lacroix, a married father of two daughters, who died during a water rescue earlier this month. A procession preceding the funeral drew some 3,000 people from across North America. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Misty eyes and touching tributes by friends, colleagues and city officials marked the final farewells to veteran Montreal firefighter Pierre Lacroix, 58, who died during a water rescue earlier this month.

A funeral was held today at the Notre-Dame Basilica honouring the married father of two daughters, who were presented with their father's fire helmet and dress cap during the service.

Ahead of the funeral, hundreds of firefighters, police officers and paramedics from Quebec and across the country marched silently to the beat of a single drum in a procession through the streets of Old Montreal to make their way to the church.

Martin Guilbault, chief of operations with the Montreal fire department, said more than 1,000 local firefighters were part of the procession, and about 3,000 official participants were in attendance, including firefighters from other parts of Canada and the United States as well as dignitaries.

The Royal Canadian Air Force helicopters also performed a flypast over the memorial service to honour Lacroix's service and sacrifice.

Speaking at the funeral service, Montreal Fire Chief Richard Liebmann said Lacroix's life was dedicated to helping others, and his final moments were a testament to his life.

"Whether it was at his job, in his community or within his family...he died how he lived: helping others."

Mayor Valérie Plante extended her sympathies to Lacroix's family and acknowledged his sacrifices.

"He paid with his life to save the lives of others. It's the greatest and most noble sacrifice and our thoughts are with his family," she said.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

Lacroix died on Oct. 17 when the rescue boat he and three colleagues were using to help two boaters in distress in the Lachine rapids of the St. Lawrence River capsized.

While the boaters and three of the firefighters were saved, Lacroix was trapped under the vessel. His body was recovered from the water the following day.

An investigation into his death is underway.

Guilbault, the operations chief, attended a visitation for Lacroix on Thursday at the Old Port's Grand Quai, where the procession took off from today. He said the gathering was a way for his colleagues to honour their lost member and to mourn together.

"Firefighters are a really tight family and when you lose one of your members, it's like losing one of your family," he said.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

Reminiscing about Lacroix's 30 years as a firefighter, Guilbault said his colleague was always laughing and having fun at the station, but he was very professional on the job. Guilbault says Lacroix's death is a reminder about the dangers that come with the job.

"You're not supposed to die when you go to work, you're supposed to come back from work. And when these things happen, it just reminds of of the importance of our job, the danger of our job," he said.

Lacroix is the first Montreal firefighter to die in the line of duty in nine years.

In 2012, 39-year-old Thierry Godfrind was struck by the fire truck that had driven him to the site of a fire. The city faced a hefty fine related to Godfrind's death, following an investigation by Quebec's workplace health and safety board.

Before that, a Montreal fire captain, Marcel Marleau, died in 2006 while battling a fire.

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