Residents of a San Clemente neighborhood were grief stricken Sunday after learning that their newlywed neighbor had died in a crash with a fire truck.
"Since day one, he's just been one of the nicest guys you ever want to meet," said Steven Sharp, a neighbor who lives in an upper unit next door to where 36-year-old Eric Stein and his wife lived.
"His brother was outside crying," Sharp says of how he heard the news. "That's when I realized what exactly happened. And I just said to myself, no, not again. Good people are being taken for such bad situations. It's just a tragedy."
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Stein had been driving his Ford Focus on Mulholland Highway on Friday with his wife. They were on their way to his brother's wedding rehearsal dinner. At the same time, an LA County fire truck - complete with crew, lights and sirens – was headed toward Sherman Oaks to assist in fire suppression. The resulting crash killed Stein. His wife was airlifted to a hospital.
"I heard his brother say she had some broken ribs," Sharp said.
The family started a GoFundMe site to help with funeral costs for Stein and medical bills for his wife. Neighbors say they had dated for years and had saved money for their wedding just six months ago.
"He helped us with a lot of stuff because we're old," said 81-year-old Shirley Stanley, who lives with her 91-year-old husband across the street from the Steins and says they had bonded with Stein over patriotism.
"World War II. Yup, Battle of the Bulge," Stanley says of her husband's service. She said Stein's mother told her the news of his passing.
"I couldn't sleep last night," she said, pointing out she was wearing the same clothes she had the day before. "It just broke my heart. I can't believe what happened to him."
The LA County Fire Department said in a statement to NBC4: "The Los Angeles County Fire Department is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Eric Stein. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. The Los Angeles County Fire Department cannot comment on this accident due to the ongoing investigations."
Neighbors say they have been watching news coverage of the crash and question what type of protocols can be adjusted as a result of it.
"Regardless of the emergency the firemen were in, how fast do you need to go?" asked Sharp. "How fast is it to being safe to where things are going to turn bad on the way?"
Sharp says the loss of Stein means the world lost one of the "greats."
"He was one of the greatest people," he said. "I was jealous of him because of the way he was. His attitude, his demeanor, his everything. All around super, super nice guy and it's a tragedy. He will be missed."