In Mememory Of Former Isu Football Player Sean Whiten

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The JSW Level
Fallen firefighter mourned
By Stacy Wolford
Monday, August 11, 2008

ROSCOE - No one loved being a firefighter more than Sean Whiten.
He shared his passion for saving lives with fellow firefighters as a state-certified training instructor and mentored junior firefighters wanting to follow in his footsteps.

When he died suddenly on Saturday, a piece of the Roscoe Volunteer Fire Company went with him.

Whiten, 47, of Stockdale, died at 11:45 a.m. in the emergency room of Monongahela Valley Hospital.

Washington County Coroner Tim Warco said an official cause of death is pending, but stated that Whiten was in cardiac arrest when he was brought to the hospital.
He had been assisting other instructors at a structural burn training session at the Westmoreland County Public Safety Training Center in Smithton.

During the session, he decided to take a break, at which time his blood pressure and pulse were checked.

Everything appeared to be fine, so he sat in front of a fan and then went to his vehicle to relax.

Within moments, he collapsed next to his vehicle, said Roscoe fire Chief Todd Mauk.

"We're still in shock," said Mauk, who called Whiten his "go-to guy."

"His death isn't just devastating to the fire department, but the whole community," said Mauk, as he gathered with fellow firefighters at the fire department Sunday.

Many firefighters stood solemnly in front of the fire station, still too shook up to talk.

"We are going to miss him," said firefighter Jason Jobes, of Stockdale. "He was devoted to fighting fires. He was here seven days a week."

Mauk said firefighters put their shock and sorrow on hold Saturday to attend the wedding of assistant fire chief Larry Pollock Jr., of Elco.

Mauk said there was a moment of silence and prayers for Whiten during the wedding ceremony and subsequent reception.

"It was definitely a bittersweet day for us," Mauk said. "There were a lot of tears."

Firefighting was in Whiten's blood.

His father, Robert Whiten Sr., was a former Charleroi fire chief, and his brother, Robert Whiten Jr., is the current fire chief in Charleroi. His son, Sean Robert, 17, is a junior firefighter. Also surviving him are his wife, Linda, and his mother, Sylvia.

"He loved to do training," said his brother. "He died doing what he loved to do."

Whiten was a 15-year member of the Roscoe fire department, having served as chief, assistant chief and president. He also was a former firefighter in Charleroi and Stockdale.

Whiten was an East Coast sales representative for Simonds International.

An outstanding football player at Charleroi Area High School, Whiten won a scholarship to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., where he played center.

Mauk said Whiten was well-known throughout the area, as he had trained many firefighters over the years.

"The fire service community in general has suffered a great loss," Mauk said.

Whiten's gear is now part of a makeshift memorial in front of the fire department, where the flags will continue to fly at half-staff this week.

Junior firefighter Tyler Palfrey said he learned a lot from Whiten.

"He was a really great guy," he said.

A firefighter's memorial service will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Ed Melenyzer Funeral Homes Inc., Roscoe. A full-honors service will be held 11 a.m. Thursday at the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Company.

Fire departments wishing to send representatives to the funeral should arrive at the Stockdale fire department no later than 10 a.m.

Departments planning to send apparatus to the service should make arrangements to do so by contacting the fire station at (724) 938-3420.