Michigan firefighter Gail VanAuken was killed in the early morning hours of November 2 when the fire department tanker in which she was riding was involved in a crash. VanAuken, 41, had been a volunteer with the Bentheim branch of the 26-member Overisel Township Fire Department for four years.
The crash occurred as Gail and her husband, Richard VanAuken, were responding on a mutual aid call to a turkey barn fire around 2:30 a.m. The 2,000-gallon tanker was crossing an intersection when it was struck in the rear axle by a pickup truck. The tanker left the road and rolled, pinning both VanAukens. Richard suffered minor injuries and was treated at a local hospital.
Gail VanAuken worked as a teacher's aide at Bentheim Elementary School, and had recently taught a fire prevention program she had developed for the students. She was described by principal Jim Zeedyk as "a vital part of our community." Fire Chief Jim Mentzer agreed. "Basically, if anybody needed anything, Gail was there," he said. Besides her husband, Gail VanAuken leaves two adult children and two school-aged children.
NETWORKING THE WOMEN OF TODAY'S FIREFIGHTING WORLD, AND PROVIDING RESOURCES TO HELP BUILD THE FIRE SERVICE OF THE FUTURE