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‘It just puts you in awe,’ fallen firefighter’s father says of memorial tribute

Firefighter killed battling fire arrives home in Montezuma

Family, friends and firefighters watched as the body of Macon County volunteer firefighter Darrell Plank returned to Montezuma Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Plank died May 23, 2017, of a head injury suffered while battling a fire Saturday, May 20, 2017.
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Family, friends and firefighters watched as the body of Macon County volunteer firefighter Darrell Plank returned to Montezuma Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Plank died May 23, 2017, of a head injury suffered while battling a fire Saturday, May 20, 2017.

Firefighters from across Middle Georgia escorted the body of Macon County firefighter Darrell Plank back home to Montezuma Wednesday morning.

As the flag-draped casket was rolled into the funeral home, Plank’s family watched from the front lawn.

Members of the volunteer fire department embraced in long hugs to comfort one another as a crowd came to pay their respects to the 29-year-old fatally injured at a weekend fire.

Carlos Larry, a recent addition to the Montezuma Fire Department, stood in front of the department’s American flag that was flying at half-staff as the procession passed.

“He was one who really cared about his job.” said Larry, who had only known Plank a short time.

About three dozen vehicles joined in a procession down Interstate 75 after Plank’s autopsy at the GBI Crime Lab in Macon.

Firefighters from Macon County, Americus, Sumter County, Montezuma, Pinehurst, Dooly County, Macon-Bibb County, Byron, Peach County, Warner Robins and Houston County were among those paying their respects.

Plank’s parents are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for their youngest son who died Tuesday of a brain injury suffered while fighting a fire Saturday.

“It was incredible,” Mary Plank said as she waited for her son’s body at the Macon-Bibb County fire station on Weaver Road.

“It just puts you in awe,” said Lewis Plank, his father.

In the days following Plank’s injury, firefighters from across the region visited with family and friends who kept vigil at Medical Center, Navicent Health.

Plank was hit in the head by a metal coupling as firefighters were pulling hoses off the truck, Chief Micah Kauffman said.

The family of fallen Macon County firefighter Darrell Plank is overwhelmed by the tribute he's received since suffering a fatal head injury fighting a fire May 20, 2017. Retired Macon-Bibb battalion chief Stephen Stafford, who was seriously injure

His older brother, John Plank, who also is a volunteer Macon County firefighter, said Darrell Plank enjoyed serving his community.

“He did a really good job at it,” John Plank said.

The 29-year-old husband and father of five children was always one of the first to arrive on the scene, including on Saturday, his brother said.

“It was his last call,” he said. “We as firemen, we never know when that’s going to happen and we just have to always be ready when God calls us.”

Macon-Bibb firefighters stood at attention in their dress uniforms and saluted as the hearse passed the fire station near the old Brown & Williamson plant.

Retired battalion chief Stephen Stafford joined the ranks.

Stafford was seriously injured in the Feb. 2015 blaze that killed Lt. Randy Parker in south Macon.

“Firefighters, we’re like a family, regardless of what department, or what state or county you come from,” said Stafford, who still walks with a cane. “A loss touches very deeply.”

Stafford said he was representing his family and that of Parker.

“I know if Randy were here, he would be right her beside of me,” Stafford said. “One thing I can say, God will take care of you.”

Plank’s family is relying on their faith to see them through.

Stafford had never met Darrell Plank, but the carpenter from Montezuma never met a stranger, his family said.

“He was a very kind, loving person. He really had a good heart for people,” John Plank said. “He’s going to be really missed by many.”

Funeral arrangements are pending through Watson-Mathews funeral home.

Macon County firefighter Darrell Plank's body is escorted back to Macon County by local firefighters.

Photo Director Woody Marshall contributed to this story.

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

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