(CBS 3) BROOKHAVEN, Pa. After an almost five year battle to have their son recognized as a firefighter, a family from Delaware County has lost their fight.
14-year-old Christopher Kangas, a volunteer firefighter at the Brookhaven Fire Department, was riding his bike to a fire in 2002 when he was struck and killed by a car.
“When he was little, he wanted to be a firefighter; it just meant the world to him,” Christopher’s mother Julie Amber-Messick said.
On the line has been the honor Christopher earned dying as well as the federal benefits for his mother. Christopher’s mom has lost her fight for $225,000 in federal death benefits.
“Very sad, disappointed, not just for Chris but for everyone,” Amber-Messick said.
State laws limit junior firefighters, who are minors, to such activities as training, first aid, and clean-up.
The Federal Circuit of Appeals in Washington ruled he was not directly involved in suppression of fires and did not die in the line of duty.
The court ruled 2 to 1 that Chris could not technically be considered a firefighter and therefore not eligible for the death benefits.
“More than 50-percent of all volunteer firemen start out as junior firefighters and this decision today, unfortunately, sends a message that is going to be to the exact opposite of what Congress intended,” Frank Daly, attorney for the Kangas’ said.
Because of the decision, Christopher will no longer be recognized as a firefighter on the National Memorial for Fallen Firefighters in Maryland.
“There’s no reason why somebody that’s a junior, why is he not protected and everybody else is, it doesn’t make any sense,” Chief Rob Montella said.
Kangas’ family said they are willing to take their battle to the Supreme Court.