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Salt Lake firefighters honor colleague who died 70 years ago

Published June 10, 2013 5:07 pm

100-foot fire truck ladder collapsed in '43, killing Lt. Paul Hamilton, severely injuring 3 colleagues.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The 100-foot ladder truck known as "Big Dan" was the pride of Salt Lake City in 1943.

But at 10:06 p.m. on June 10 of that year, with four firefighters atop the truck attempting to extinguish a fire at Hotel Newhouse, the 100-foot ladder began to shake, then twist and finally buckle, sending the men plummeting to the ground. That "catastrophic failure" — later determined to be caused by mechanical defects — killed firefighter Lt. Paul Hamilton, 34, and severely injured three of his colleagues.

On Monday, 70 years to the date of Hamilton's death and at 10:06 a.m., several dozen Salt Lake City firefighters gathered at the site of the fatal accident to remember him and hang a wreath in his memory.

Hotel Newhouse, which was at 400 S. Main St., has since been demolished and turned into a parking lot.

With so many decades having passed, most people probably don't remember that Hamilton, a father of two, died at that location, said Capt. Chris Milne.

But he said it's important to acknowledge those who have been killed helping the public.

"We can pass this on to our younger generation of firefighters," he said. "There should never be a time when our firefighters drive by this site and don't have a moment of reflection [for Hamilton's sacrifice.]"

Ultimately, the company that manufactured the faulty ladder truck replaced the ladder at no charge and wrote a check to compensate Hamilton's family and the three injured firefighters.

Retired fire Capt. Jim Andrew, the son of Jack Andrew, one of the three firefighters who survived but was seriously injured in the collapse, said his family has never forgotten that night.

Jim Andrew continued the family tradition and became a firefighter himself.

"This is a serious, dangerous business, and we do it because we love it," he said.

jstecklein@sltrib.com

Twitter @sltribjanelle