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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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