First Responders

Florida Firefighter Killed Trying To Free Rental-Truck Passenger

November 12, 2021Carl Prine
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Engineer Michael L. Freeland died Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, while trying to free a seriously injured passenger from a U-Haul truck. Photo courtesy of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. Image courtesy of Marion County Fire Rescue.

A Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter died in the early morning of Thursday, Nov. 11, while trying to free a seriously injured passenger from a U-Haul truck.

Officials in Florida told reporters Thursday night that they don’t know exactly what killed Engineer Michael Freeland, but early reports from crew members indicated he might’ve stepped on a live electric wire from a nearby downed power line.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers described Freeland, 36, as a “very good firefighter, very energetic,” a dedicated man who “loved to serve the public.”

Freeland had responded to a crash along Aviation Avenue near Cecil Airport after midnight Thursday. Powers described attempts to free an unnamed female passenger inside the rental truck as “difficult and prolonged.” While crew members toiled to rescue her from the front of the vehicle, Freeman and another firefighter tried the rear of the truck.

“It was just a very difficult extrication, the way she was pinned in there,” Powers said.

Freeland apparently exited the rear of the truck and fell instantly. Fellow firefighters immediately began working to save his life, and they were soon assisted by University of Florida Health system staff, Powers said, but they weren’t successful.

At 2:12 a.m., Freeland was pronounced dead. The medical examiner’s office in Jacksonville hasn’t issued a cause of death. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Alongside news of Freeland’s death came an outpouring of support from fellow firefighters across the Sunshine State.

Marion County Fire Rescue Chief James Banta took to social media to pledge “our full support to our brothers and sisters” in Jacksonville.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family and Jacksonville Fire Rescue during this difficult time,” Banta wrote.

This is a breaking story and Coffee or Die Magazine will continue to cover it.

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Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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