REDSTONE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -
Funeral services have been scheduled for a 16-year-old junior firefighter who was shot and killed Sunday while inside a fire station.
Parker Hess was a sophomore at Brownsville Area High School. Hess’ family members said it was his dream to become a New York City firefighter. They said he was so proud to finally afford his own official helmet, which cost him nearly $500.
“He bought his helmet. He saved all his money up to buy his junior helmet,” Umbel said.
Republic's small fire department has received a huge outpouring of support from people, companies and other fire departments, who've reached out and offered support and prayers.
George Matis Jr., 21, of Republic, was charged with criminal homicide and recklessly endangering another person in connection with the shooting in Redstone Township, Fayette County.
Hess and Matis were in an office at the fire station, when Matis removed a 9mm pistol from a holster he was wearing, and it discharged in Hess’ direction, a criminal complaint said. Matis owned the gun legally, according to state police.
The Redstone Township Police Department was called to the fire station about 4 p.m., according to a news release from state police in Belle Vernon. When police arrived, they found that Hess had been struck in the face by a bullet. He died at the scene, and a procession escorted Hess’ body from the fire station
Officials said there were other people in the firehouse at the time, preparing for the town's Light Up Night, which was ultimately canceled. However, those people did not witness the shooting.
Troopers said Hess and Matis were pretty good friends. They do not yet know if the shooting was intentional or an accident. Matis has obtained an attorney. Matis was arraigned and taken to the Fayette County Prison, where he is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7.
When residents and the teen's classmates heard about the incident, they rushed to the fire hall to pay their respects and offer support.
"You just can't take any day for granted. It could be gone like that, you know?" said Nellree Burnham, who lives nearby. "Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with this family."
Laci Savochka, a classmate of the victim, said the community needs to stay strong to get through the tragedy.
In a statement, Brownsville School District superintendent Philip Savini said: "We are saddened to hear of the loss of one of our students. Our sympathies and support go out to the family. The district has scheduled counselors who are prepared to offer support to staff and students when school resumes Tuesday."
Jeffrey Umbel, who worked with Hess and Matis at the Republic Volunteer Fire Department, also offered his condolences.
“(Hess’) mom said he wanted to be a fireman all his life. It's a shame something like this had to happen. Accidents do happen,” he said.
The Fire Department posted the following tribute to Hess Monday night on its Facebook page:
“May God Bless the Hess Family. Truly a great young man taken way to soon.
“Parker is a proud brother of a great cause to which he was one of our own. Surely he will be missed. Parker added the youthful touch to an aging department. Eager to learn, without hesitation. So respectful and most warm hearted as you could get. RVFC will without a doupt miss him. He became a member of our family. We can never explain the reasons things happen sometimes. And more importantly this time. Our only hope is that God's plan were more important than ours.
Rest in peace Parker.”
Visitation and funeral information is as follows:
Firefighter memorial service
Thursday at 8 p.m. at Kish Funeral Home, 1 Legion Street, Republic, PA 15475
Fire personnel wishing to pay their respects are asked to arrive at the staging area across from the funeral home no later than 7:30 p.m. There will be personnel directing visitors.
Friday at 11 a.m. at First Christian Church of New Salem
Due to limited space and out of respect for the family, the services will be limited to the home fire department and its immediate mutual aid companies. The Republic Volunteer Fire Company asks that any department wishing to pay tribute and honor Parker by accompanying the procession as it makes its way to the cemetery to be at the New Salem VFW Woods, 998 New Salem Road, New Salem, PA 15468, no later than 10:45 a.m. to line up. There will be fire police personnel directing people to the staging area.
Immediately following the internment services, members of the Republic Volunteer Fire Company invite all attending departments to their social hall at 218 Republic Road, Republic, PA, 15475, for a light lunch and fellowship with other firefighters.
People are asked to RSVP to the Fayette County EMA Office at 724-430-1277 during normal business hours or email email@example.com. People can also contact the Fayette County 911 Center after normal business hours at 724-430-9111 with the number of apparatus and personnel attending Friday's services.