POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) – It was an emotional day for hundreds of firefighters, friends and family members of a Pompano Beach firefighter who died after falling off a 100-foot ladder during a climbing exercise.
The funeral service for William “Bill” Elliott began at the Calvary Chapel located at 2401 W Cypress Creek Road in Ft. Lauderdale at 12:30 p.m. following a sizable official fire service funeral procession.
“We have been getting an outpouring of support from fire and police stations. We’ve gotten calls from fire departments as far as Canada on down,” said Pompano Beach Fire Rescue spokesperson Sandra King.
It’s a raw emotional day for firefighters here in South Florida and firefighters from all over the country who gathered to bury one of their own.
“The fire service has a long tradition of we’re all brothers no matter where we are at,” said Capt. Cesar Espinosa of the Hialeah Fire Department. The loss of a brother in the line of duty is an unfortunate tragedy and in Pompano Beach it’s the first time it’s ever happened and it’s a big deal when you lose a member of your family.”
Pompano Beach firefighter Neal Weidman knew 49-year-old Eliott for ten years.
“The emotions I’m feeling and my department is feeling is sadness. It can’t be reduced into words. We are still grieving. It’s surreal to us, it’s overwhelming,” said Weidman.
Elliott, a member of the department since 1989, was a respected firefighter.
Espinosa said, “It’s a big deal when you lose a member of your family.”
Elliott’s mother Joanne was in a wheel chair after suffering a heart attack over the shocking news. His firefighter brother John, walked Elliott’s dog Dingy, and followed the casket inside the chapel for a celebration of his life.
“My brother taught me so much,” John Elliott said. “We shared everything. He taught me so many things.”
Elliott’s sister, Mary-Beth Elliott Williams, was also in attendance.
“He died in his boots doing what he loved,” she said. I knew he was special, but now know how special he was. My brother was my hero and he will live forever in my heart.”
Fire Chief Harry Small said all safety regulations were followed during Elliott’s training exercise.
Elliott leaves behind his parents, a brother and a sister.