LAKE MILLS, WI (WITI/WMTV/CNN) - Family, friends and colleagues are remembering a Wisconsin firefighter as a hero for stopping to help a young driver in need, only to be killed by a suspected drunken driver on New Year’s Eve.
A procession followed 46-year-old Fire Capt. Chris Truman’s body to a Lake Mills, WI, funeral home Wednesday, as those who knew and loved him reflected on his life.
Truman’s fiancée, Amber Turfle, struggled to find the words to describe her grief.
"I just want him back, and this pain is going to last forever,” Turfle said. “He once said to me, ‘Honey, I just want to be remembered as a hero,' and he got his wish. He loved what he did. He wouldn’t regret ever getting out of that car.”
Authorities say Truman was off-duty on New Year’s Eve when he stopped to help a stranded motorist. While he was assisting the driver, investigators say he was struck and killed by Samuel Cremers, who is alleged to have been driving drunk at the time.
"Compassion was the big thing with Chris. He cared about everybody. He just was that type of an individual,” said former Lake Mills Fire Chief Rick Heinz.
The loss is being felt especially hard at the Lake Mills Fire Department, where a small memorial sits outside.
"He was doing what he’s done for 13 years - in a different role. Ultimately, he died doing what he loved to do, and that was to help somebody in need,” said acting Fire Chief Todd Yandre.
The family of the young driver Truman was helping at the time of his death sent a thank you message to the fire department, calling the 46-year-old a hero:
“I know that all of you are grieving. I don’t know if this will help but your captain saved my daughter’s life last night. My daughter had lost control of the car and skidded. She got out of her car and was afraid and overwhelmed. He saw her and pulled behind her with his lights on. He came out of his car and told her to get back into her car. He pulled the bumper that was hanging off and then went to her window and told her he would follow her off the Beltline to safety. It was at this point that the driver hit him. My heart is in so much pain for all of you. He is my hero. Please let his wife/family know he is forever our angel. I’m just so very sorry.”
Cremers was arrested and charged with homicide by reckless use of a vehicle.