Denver fire lieutenant dies of injuries suffered a week ago |

Denver fire lieutenant dies of injuries suffered a week ago

DENVER ” A veteran Denver firefighter who suffered a heart attack while fighting a house fire a week ago died Sunday morning.

Lt. Rich Montoya was only 15 shifts from retirement when he was injured May 14, fire department spokesman Lt. Phil Champagne said.

He had 30 years with the department.

Montoya was trying to get his crew out of a pitch-black bedroom when he became trapped under a mattress.

A statement released by the fire department said, “The Montoya family and the Denver Fire Department wish to thank all for their support, thoughts and prayers.” Montoya was removed from life support Sunday morning.

Sixteen-year-old Raquel Gutierrez, who was rescued from the burning home, was in fair condition at University Hospital.

Montoya’s family said they were glad Montoya was the one who died, if somebody had to go, Fire Chief Larry Trujillo said. “They said he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself through his retirement had it been one of his crew members,” Trujillo said.

The American flag flew at half staff outside Montoya’s station, where many of his colleagues considered each other a second family.

“We’re grieving just as hard as his family is. Our loss is as great as theirs. It’s really sad,” Capt. Sal Marini told KUSA-TV in Denver.

“It’s not supposed to be a trade. It’s supposed to be, we save lives and we all come home and feel good about it. This time only half that equation occurred. We saved a life but something went wrong for us,” Marini told KUSA-TV.

Funeral services were pending.

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