Reflecting on a tragedy - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Kerry Klatt

Reflecting on a tragedy

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ROCHESTER, MN (FOX 47) -- It was 55 years ago this Christmas Eve that two Rochester firefighters died in the line of duty attempting to save a 9-year-old boy.

Fire Chief Greg Martin says, "During the course of that rescue the two firefighters went out on the ice with ladders and the best tools and techniques of that era."

But tragically, all three perished.

Wednesday morning, family members and firefighters gathered to remember the lives of Rochester firefighters Ambrose Riley and Stanley O' Brien.

Martin says, "Riley and O'Brien tried to keep the child on a piece of wood that was floating in the open water, but the child was rapidly losing consciousness."

Despite efforts to resuscitate, the three died after being pulled from the icy water.

One of Riley's three daughters, Kathleen, says she's grateful for the memorial service.

Kathleen Riley says, "I think all of us are just absolutely moved by the fire service, and how respectful they are, and how kind they always have been to us."

Kathleen says their lives were forever changed on that Christmas Eve. 

Riley says, "I think as a result it's made Christmas Eve really important to us, and as my sister says still, she's 61-years-old and she's the only one she knows her age who still goes home for Christmas."

Riley says celebrating her father's life is still as important as it was 55 years ago.

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