The Superior Fire Department joined several Minnesota fire departments and law enforcement agencies Tuesday to pay tribute to two Michigan firefighters killed in a crash Saturday in Blaine, Minn.
James Shelifoe, 23, and Alan Swartz, 25, of Baraga, Mich., were among firefighters headed to Utah to fight a wildfire when they were killed Saturday afternoon.
Superior firefighters lined the route along Belknap Street, hanging an American flag from fire truck ladders erected over Belknap Street. They saluted as the funeral process, which included several departments from Minnesota, made its way down Belknap to U.S. Highways 2/53 for the journey east to Michigan.
Shelifoe and Swartz were members of the crew from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, from the Baraga-based Beartown Firefighters managed by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. They were en route to Utah when the driver, Michael A. Johnson, 28, of Baraga lost control of the fire truck just after 3 p.m. Saturday.
Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the scene, where first responders discovered the cab and the box of the truck separated and spread across traffic lanes, the criminal complaint said.
The cab was in the southbound lane of 35W while the box was found on its side in the median after hitting a cable barrier in the median. Tire markings indicated the fire truck had reportedly drifted onto the right shoulder of the two-lane freeway before being jerked left in what appeared to be an attempt to correct the swerve.
Seven people, including Johnson, were injured in the crash.
Johnson was charged Monday in Anoka County District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide after reportedly causing a freeway crash that killed two of his fellow firefighters and injured six others as they drove one of their trucks to Utah to fight a wildfire.
The Superior Fire Department joined the other departments to pay "our respects to our fallen brothers," said Battalion Chief Erik Sutton.
Sarah Horner of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this report.