|Agency||Aroma Fire Protection District|
|Type of Firefighter||Volunteer|
|Age Range||51 to 55|
|Date of Birth||9/23/1905|
|Date of Death||3/21/1958|
|Cause of Death||Struck by vehicle|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , Hose operations|
Firefighter Lawrence Thornburg and Captain Edwin Anderson of the Aroma Fire Protection District died in the line of duty after they were struck by a vehicle while fighting a wildland grass fire. Thornburg died a few hours after the incident, which occurred on March 21, 1958, and Anderson succumbed to his injuries on June 3. Four other firefighters were also injured in the accident.
The accident occurred around 4:45PM, shortly after eight volunteer firefighters arrived at the fire and parked their fire truck along the side of the highway. Seven firefighters were grouped in front of the truck, and the eighth was lying under the apparatus repairing the pumping mechanism, when a car collided with the firefighters. Firefighter Ron Burke, the first firefighter struck by the car, crashed through the vehicle’s windshield and was thrown from the wreck when the car slammed into the fire truck. He suffered head injuries and a compound fracture in his leg. Thornburg and Anderson, along with Fire Chief Thomas White and Firefighter Elmer Wilkens, endured serious leg injuries after they were crushed between the car and the fire truck. Firefighter Edward Goselin suffered minor head injuries, and Assistant Chief Hubert Spelbring and Firefighter Melvin Nourie narrowly missed being injured as well. Ambulances transported the injured firefighters to St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, while additional firefighters from the Aroma Fire Protection District responded to the scene and extinguished the blaze.
Thornburg, a production employee at A.O. Smith Corporation, died shortly after arriving at the hospital. He was buried on March 24. Anderson, who operated a grocery store and had been a charter member of the department in 1945, had his left leg amputated the day of the accident, and remained in ill health for the final ten weeks of his life.
The driver of the car was charged with reckless homicide and reckless driving, although he stated that his visibility was obscured by the smoke from the fire. After he pled guilty to the charges, his driver’s license was revoked and he was fined $2,250.
A variety of organizations and charities, including the Aroma Park American Legion, the Aroma Park Firemen’s Auxiliary, the Kankakee Valley Firemen’s Association, the Limestone Fire Department, and the Loyal Order of the Moose and Women of the Moose, raised more than $15,000 for the injured firefighters in the months following the accident.
On September 11, 2008, a permanent memorial to Captain Anderson and Firefighter Thornburg was dedicated at the Aroma Fire Protection District fire station. The memorial not only honors the two men killed in the line of duty, but also recognizes the other firefighters injured in the vehicle collision.