A solemn procession was held Monday for a 29-year-old firefighter who died after a fall during a training exercise in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend.
The firefighter, identified Monday by the Los Angeles Fire Department as Kelly Wong, fell from an aerial ladder at about 10 a.m. Saturday during the exercise in the 300 block of South Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. He was an "accomplished individual" who had just started a promising career with the department, the LAFD chief said.
Wong, survived by his wife and infant son, was rushed in critical condition to a hospital. The fire department announced the death Monday morning.
Wong was a two-year veteran of the department assigned to Station 92 in Rancho Park. He was set for transfer to Station 9 in downtown Los Angeles this month.
"I join the men and women of the LAFD in mourning Firefighter Wong's sudden passing," said LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas. "It is always a tragedy to lose one of our own, especially an accomplished individual who was still at the beginning of what was certainly going to be a promising career."
During a morning procession to the coroner's office, colleagues, family members and hospital staff members gathered outside LA County USC Medical Center to honor the firefighter. A coroner's van carried his flag-draped body from the hospital, passing under a U.S. flag suspended from the ladders of two fire trucks.
Overcome with grief, Wong's wife kneeled next to the casket. The couple was about to celebrate their child's first birthday.
Rows of firefighters lined the exit from the hospital and saluted as the van passed.
Wong graduated from the LAFD Recruit Academy on Terminal Island in August 2015. He was the top academic performer in his class.
"Kelly's dream since he was a little boy was to be a firefighter," Terrazas said. "His mother, Ann, shared that story with me that Kelly liked to play with fire trucks growing up. He applied with several departments, but he wanted to work for the best. He wanted to work for the Los Angeles Fire Department. And he accomplished his goal."
Mayor Eric Garcetti's eyes watered and his voice broke as he talked about Wong's death and his young son, saying the boy will have "a lot of uncles and aunts" looking over him.
"This department and this city will ensure that he grows up with a life of love and knowing what a hero his father was," Garcetti said. "So I'm here to represent 4 million grateful souls today."
Terrazas echoed that sentiment, describing the immediate outpouring of support that came from fellow firefighters and people across the city. The chief added that the type of training in which Wong was killed will continue.
"When Kelly was injured, the crew at Fire Station 9 was training, and I always tell our people that the first thing, the most important thing that we do is respond to emergencies," he said. "The second most important thing we do is train to respond to emergencies. We will continue to train whether it be for a high-rise fire, a brush fire, a medical event, whatever incident type it is, we will continue to train to be ready so we can protect the people of this great city."
The LAFD, in conjunction with state safety agencies, is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of the death.
Memorial services for Wong are pending.