Polk County Fire Rescue remembers firefighter tragically killed in off-duty crash

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Polk County firefighters are remembering one of their own who was tragically killed over the weekend.

Brian Herr, 41, was off-duty when he crashed his vehicle on I-4 in Davenport.

READ: Polk County firefighter's car engulfed in flames after deadly I-4 crash: Officials

"We're deeply saddened at this untimely and sudden death of our firefighter," said Joe Halman Jr., the deputy county manager of public safety.

A procession of firefighters paid their respects Monday afternoon, traveling from the Polk County Medical Examiner's office to Gause Funeral Home in Bartow where Herr will be laid to rest.

"Our members are bonded together," said Chief Dr. Hezedean Smith of Polk County Fire Rescue. "We eat together and sleep together, and our members really rely on each other."

On Saturday, shortly before 5:30 AM, firefighters responded to I-4 where a car was engulfed in flames in the center median. Inside the car, they found Herr, along with his firefighting protective gear.

"We train for this every day," said Smith. "We have the highest trained individuals, members of our organization committed to saving life and property, so this was a very challenging incident for our team."

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Herr was headed west in the inside lane of I-4 and began merging into the middle lane at the same time as an unknown vehicle that was also merging from the outside lane, according to PCSO.

According to evidence and witness statements, Herr swerved back into the inside lane, and the unknown vehicle swerved back to the outside lane. Officials say there was no evidence and a witness confirmed that the two cars never collided.

When Herr swerved back, his car began to hydroplane and spin, according to authorities. Deputies say the car entered the center grass median of the interstate and the passenger side of the car hit a large grouping of trees.

Herr was hired in March and sworn in in April and had moved to the area from Chicago. He lived in Wesley Chapel and was based out of Rescue 7 in Polk City.

He was described as a leader and a go-getter.

"Even though he was with us a short time, he demonstrated a positive attitude and demonstrated teamwork that was exceptional. He'll be greatly missed," said Smith.

He's survived by his mother and his two sons.

"I want the family to know we're praying for them, and we're here to help them as we go through this process," said Halman Jr.

The sheriff's office is still investigating the accident and information about Herr's funeral will be released at a later date.