Family, friends gather as firefighter is taken off life support
Police still looking for driver who ran over 25-year-old Sterling Lytle
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN-TV) – Family, friends and coworkers gathered at the University of Arizona Medical Center Tuesday afternoon to say goodbye to firefighter Sterling Lytle as the hospital took him off life support.
Firefighters from various departments gathered on the west side of the hospital near his room and blasted their sirens before releasing red balloons in to the sky, as those who knew him joined together in support and prayer.
Lytle was born at UAMC 25 years ago, where doctors let him off life support shortly after 3 o’clock Tuesday. Throughout the morning, Lytle’s family and friends gathered to share stories and prayer at Duval Auditorium for a firefighter who, even after his death, will continue saving lives.
Lytle passed away at 5:21pm.
The one question Lytle’s family and friends may never get answered: Why? Why take away the life of a 25-year-old who just months ago realized his lifelong dream of being a firefighter? And why did that driver run over him, for no apparent reason? But most of all, why him?
“He always thought of others. Just the fact that someone could do something like this to him just doesn’t make sense,” said Casey Johnson, who has been Lytle’s friend since high school.
Johnson joined many others who gathered to tell stories, to share memories, and to hold Lytle in their thoughts and prayers – in spite of that nagging question.
“That’s the really hard part – waking up in the morning, going to sleep at night knowing that today he’ll be here, but tomorrow he will not be. So that’s the pain we’re feeling right now,” stepfather Casey Barcelo told KGUN9 News.
But even without answers, Lytle’s family and friends can be comforted by the “because”: because it only makes sense for someone who saved lives, to keep doing so after his death; because Lytle is a testament to the power of giving; and because he may be gone, but never forgotten.
“Sterling will be there on every call, watching our backs at all times. Just because he’s gone doesn’t mean he still won’t be in our hearts and looking over us,” Johnson said.
There has been an outpouring of support for Lytle and his family from those in Tucson as well as across the nation. They’ve received many messages of support from firefighters everywhere. Locally, people are thinking of establishing a firefighter scholarship for Lytle, creating a memorial for him, and even starting a hotline where people can contribute donations to up the reward for the person who ran him over.