Anne Sullivan was a gifted athlete filled with energy who came out of high school with a focus on being a firefighter. But about a month after graduating from the Houston Fire Department Academy, the 24-year-old was among four firefighters who died while searching for people they thought might be trapped in a blazing Houston motel and restaurant.
“She had a lot of energy and had her heart set at that,” her father, Jack Sullivan, told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Also killed in the collapse during the Friday afternoon fire at the Southwest Inn were: Capt. Matthew Renaud, 35, who had been with department for 11½ years; Engineer Operator Robert Bebee, 41, who joined the department almost 12 years ago; and Firefighter Robert Garner, 29, who joined the department 2½ years ago.
The Houston Fire Department said 14 firefighters were taken to the hospital Friday. One remained in critical condition on Saturday and another underwent surgery. The rest were in stable condition and several have been released from the hospital.
The fire broke out just after noon at a restaurant connected to the Southwest Inn along a busy freeway and quickly spread to the section of the building housing the motel. About 150 firefighters responded and were able to get it under control within about two hours.
The fire was the deadliest in the 118-year history of the department.
Fire Capt. Ruy Lozano said at a news conference Saturday that firefighters were turning to each other and their families as they grieved their colleagues.
“Anytime one of your brothers or sisters are affected, it’s not just that, it’s also a reminder of the inherent danger of this profession. It reminds you. It reminds your family,” said Lozano, who also said that a memorial for the firefighters is tentatively set for Wednesday.
Fire officials said they took a high risk in aggressively fighting the fire because they believed people were inside the motel. When a portion of the building collapsed, the firefighters were trapped.
“It was an occupied structure, during business hours. There was every indication to think there was a life to be saved,” Lozano said.
Anne Sullivan, a soccer player and cross country runner in high school, joined the Wharton County Junior College Fire Academy after graduation. She graduated from the Houston Fire Department Academy in April.
Jack Sullivan said he was on his way home from work Friday when he heard about the fire and realized it was in his daughter’s area.
“I’m thinking she could be involved, but maybe not,” he said.
About 10 minutes later he heard that four firefighters had died in the blaze and began crying in his car. As he approached his house, he saw an emergency vehicle parked outside and knew his daughter was among those who had died.
“I knew right that instant,” Sullivan said.
He said that while he’d tried to sway his daughter into a less dangerous line of work — such as an EMT — he knew that her heart was set on being a firefighter. At 5-foot-2, she had the “grit and determination” to realize her dream, he said.
“There was no stopping her,” Sullivan said.
Jerry Veuleman, who raised Garner since he was 14 years old, told the Houston Chronicle that Garner was proud of his work and had set his sights on becoming a firefighter after leaving the military.
“‘Use your training. Don’t be a hero. God will look after you,'” Veuleman recalled telling him. “God chose it was time to take Robert and the other firefighters. We are sorry, but we are also blessed.”
The Houston Fire Department Arson Division is taking the lead in the investigation of the fire, with assistance from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Houston Police Department.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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