AUBURN, Wash. — Mountain View Fire and Rescue said their firefighter Peter Phan, who drowned after falling off his paddleboard on Lake Cle Elum last weekend, was not wearing a life jacket because he had given his to a friend.
“He gave up his life jacket and the tether to put on the friend, so that his friend would feel safer,” said Mountain View Fire and Rescue Lt. Keith Bell. “The squall came up; they were both thrown off the paddleboard.”
Deputies said rough weather knocked Phan into the water, who was off-duty at the time at Lake Cle Elum for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. His body was recovered several days later.
A group from Mountain View Fire and Rescue brought his body home Thursday.
“I’ve never had one of my guys pass away before,” said Lt. Bell, in an interview with KIRO 7. “It’s like losing a brother.”
Phan had been a volunteer firefighter with Mountain View Fire and Rescue for a little over three years, according to Lt. Bell, who said the 33-year-old was working to get hired.
“He was a jokester, he was compassionate,” said Lt. Bell. “It’s an emotional roller coaster.”
On Thursday, after returning to Western Washington with his body, the department cancelled scheduled training and gathered at headquarters to help each other cope with Phan’s death. The fire chief ordered Station 95 flags at half-staff.
Lt. Bell said Phan had experienced kidney failure as a teen and received a transplant that gave him a second chance at life.
“He knew that he had a further call somewhere and it wasn't until he came into the fire department that he really figured that out,” said Lt. Bell.
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