Firefighters from across the Carolinas packed a Catawba County church Saturday to memorialize a fallen colleague.
Capt. Bradley Long, 28, died Monday during a recovery operation for the body of a swimmer who disappeared last Sunday on Lake Norman.
Long was a full-time firefighter for the city of Newton. He also volunteered 12 years with Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue, where he started as a junior firefighter at age 14.
On Wednesday, fire engines and other emergency vehicles from various Catawba County departments escorted Long’s body back to Bennett Funeral Service in Conover from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
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The visitation for Long was held on Friday. On Saturday morning, firefighters joined Long’s family and friends for his funeral at Mountain View Baptist Church in Maiden, which seats about 800 people. The visitation and funeral were closed to the media, but copies of the programs were made available.
Hymns at the funeral included “I’ll Fly Away,” “Amazing Grace” and “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” A video remembrance was shown, and a bell rang for Long’s “Final Call.”
At the end of the service, the song “One Call Away” played as Newton and Sherrills Ford-Terrell firefighters were leaving the church.
The firefighters formed two lines to pass Long’s casket onto Newton Fire Department Engine 2 as a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.”
Engine 2 and most of the rest of the procession then passed under two fire engine ladders, one from Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue and the other from the Newton Fire Department, that held aloft a giant U.S. flag. All then proceeded to Long’s nearby gravesite.
Long joined the Newton Fire Department as a part-time firefighter in 2007, became a full-time fire engineer in 2011 and was promoted to fire captain last year. He was named Fireman of the Year by the Newton Elks Lodge this year.
Two other divers with Long were hospitalized at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville. One was released, and the second was held overnight for observation. The injured divers surfaced on their own, officials said.
Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County emergency management coordinator, said she expected the investigation into Long’s death to be a lengthy one. The investigation by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office will include checking the gear the three divers were using, Yaussy said.