Firefigther’s death stuns department

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

Colleagues described 23-year-old Clovis firefighter Aaron Gonzales as a respected co-worker with a great sense of humor.

A three-year member of the department, Gonzales was killed early Sunday morning in a two-vehicle accident just north of Clovis.

“Aaron was always happy, always had a smile on his face, and always willing to do what people asked of him,” said fellow firefighter Bart Bronniman, who had been stationed with Gonzales for about two years.

“He had a really big heart, and took a lot of pride in his job here at the fire department,” Bronniman said. “He always wanted to do a good job and please people.”

Gonzales was a certified emergency medical technician, a member of the department’s Hazmat team and the fire department’s color guard, department officials said.

A sense of shock and stun hit the department early Sunday morning when units responded to the accident scene and learned one of their own had perished, said department spokesman Bill Baca. Baca and other fire personnel traveled Monday to Albuquerque to claim Gonzales’ body. “We wanted to bring our own home,” he said.

“Aaron was a fireman (who) was respected by his colleagues,” Baca said, noting that he was fond of public education activities in the local schools. “He always brought his professionalism, his sense of humor, and he was always a great guy to get along with. He was an asset to the community.

“We still haven’t necessarily come to grips with what happened.”

State Police say Gonzales was a passenger in a Ford Mustang driven by 18-year-old Shad Defoor. According to the press release, the vehicle Defoor was driving failed to stop at the stop sign at the intersection of Curry Road 14 and State Road 209. A pickup truck traveling north struck the Mustang on the passenger side.

The Mustang hit a dirt embankment and turned over 1 1/4 times, the report said. Gonzales was pronounced dead at the scene.

State police say the investigation is ongoing and charges may be filed.

Gonzales will be buried Thursday with full honors in a traditional firefighter’s funeral, Baca said. The fire department’s color guard will assist in the ceremony, and Gonzales’ casket will ride atop a fire engine as the funeral party leaves the church for the cemetery.

Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at First United Methodist, Baca said, with burial following at Lawn Haven.

A college fund for Gonzales’ son has been set up at High Plains Federal Credit Union, officials said.