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Georgia Firefighters Missing Off FL Coast

Firehouse.com News
April 30, 2001

Two Alpharetta firefighters were reported missing Saturday after failing to return from a fishing trip off the Florida Gulf coast.


The United States Coast Guard is searching for firefighter/EMT Eli Nichols, 47, and firefighter/Paramedic Jay Kimball, 42, who traveled to Keaton Beach, Florida, south of Tallahassee. Alpharetta Fire Department Chief Bill Bates said the last contact with the two was Wednesday and they were seen cleaning fish Thursday night.


Three department members, Captain Craig Schmitz and Battalion Chiefs Robert Rogers and Joe Popadics have traveled to Keaton Beach Marina to monitor the search. Bates said both men had often gone to the area fishing. It was thought they had left the marina in an eighteen-foot boat probably fishing for grouper.


Battalion Chief Rogers said Monday afternoon the Coast Guard had a Falcon Jet, a C-130 and a 110-foot cutter searching an area south of St. Petersburg according drift patterns and a computer model. The sheriff s department had a plane doing a shoreline search.


"One of the hardest things for us is to just be sitting here. We are on the other side of the coin. We are usually the ones doing the rescue," Rogers said.


"Everyone here has been so nice to us getting us whatever we need," Rogers said. They were waiting the arrival of both of the firefighter s wives.


Nichols has been a paid firefighter with the department for eight years and volunteered with the department for about 3 years before that. He is married and has five children.


Kimball is a three-year paid firefighter with the department. He is married and has an eighteen-year-old daughter.


Bates said Nichols had grown up in the Florida area and is an experienced fisherman. "They know how to operate the boat but there has been some rough weather down there," he said.



Alpharetta (Ga.) Stunned by Deaths of 2 Firefighters
WRITTEN BY : Rebecca Richardson / FireFighting.com, DATE POSTED: 5/2/01



Jay Kimball (left) and Eli Nichols. Photos Courtesy of the Alpharetta Fire Department)



This week the Alpharetta (Ga.) Fire Department lost two members when firefighters Jay Kimball and Eli Nichols disappeared while on a fishing trip off the Florida Gulf Coast. A search was begun Saturday when the men failed to return home.

Their boat was found capsized Tuesday afternoon about 35 miles west of Keaton Beach by a Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission plane. Several hours later, their bodies were located and recovered.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is investigating the accident. The bodies were released to the coroner's office in Tallahassee (Fla.) where the cause of death is yet to be determined.
Both men were wearing their lifevests when found.

Kimball, 42, was a paid firefighter with the department for three years. Nichols, 47, had been with the department a total of 11 years--three years as a volunteer before becoming a paid firefighter eight years ago.

Located just outside Atlanta in Fulton County, the City of Alpharetta (GA) has a population of about 29,000 people. According to Chief Bill Bates, the department has about 100 firefighters and is "still small enough to be a big family."

The department has had counselors on standby to help the members of the department deal with the loss. "The city has been very supportive, as have the counselors and members of the clergy," said Chief Bates. "Counselors have practically moved into the stations to help everyone deal with this."

"This is like losing a member of our family. We wake up every morning with the potential of losing someone because of the type of work that we do. But you never expect something like this to happen."

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.


Web posted Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Search for missing anglers expands

Associated Press

KEATON BEACH -- The Coast Guard had five aircraft and one cutter in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City in the Florida Panhandle Tuesday, six days after two firefighters from Georgia left this coastal village to go fishing.

"We're continuing the search, and haven't located any survivors or debris at this time," said Chief Petty Officer Mike Brock in Miami, where Coast Guard District Seven has been coordinating efforts to find Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball.

The search had been shifted about 150 miles to the west, and was centered about 90 miles south of Panama City, the Coast Guard said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

Kimball, 42, and Nichols, 47, firefighters in Alpharetta, Ga., in Atlanta's northern suburbs, were last seen late Thursday out in the Gulf in their 17-foot boat.

"We got a report they were seen on the night of the 26th," Brock said. "And the men stated they were going fishing for grouper," usually done 15 to 35 miles out.

They failed to report back at work as scheduled in Alpharetta on Saturday.

"While the men's fishing location is not known, search planners have used local knowledge of grouper activity to plan several large search areas," the Coast Guard statement explained. "Applying the effects of current and wind to the men's boat, rescue planners believe if their boat broke down, they may have drifted as far west as south of Panama City."

Helicopters and planes from Mobile, Ala., Elizabeth City, N.C., and Clearwater were involved in the search, along with a KC-130 tanker plane for aerial refueling from Eglin Air Force Base.

in the Florida Panhandle.

Weather in the area Tuesday looked good for a search, according to National Weather Service reports, with winds of up to 12 miles per hour and visibility up to 10 miles.


May 4, 2001

Alpharetta Firefighters


The bodies of Alpharetta Firefighters Jay Kimball and Eli Nichols will
return to Atlanta on Friday, May 04, 2001. Atlanta Fire Department airport
apparatus will greet the flight. They will arrive on Delta Flight 1692 at 08:43. The
flight will be arriving at the E Concourse to provide enough room for the
fire apparatus including Atlanta and Alpharetta. The family will be
permitted to deplane onto the ramp where the procession will meet the aircraft. The
caskets will be loaded directly from the aircraft to each hearse with all
uniformed personnel at attention in rank on each side of the unloading belt.

The procession will precede from the E Concourse, across each ramp and leave
the ramp at Fire Station #32. Station #32 will be in formation at the gate.
The procession will leave the airport and head north on I-75/85.
Any FESMA members who are interested in attending are requested to contact
FESMA rep. to Alpharetta FD, Chris Kelco at 404-285-2666.

(Note from Pres.: I will not be able to attend due to a prior engagement.
Randy Johnson (MAPES Pres./Alph. PD) and Joe Villafane (MAPES/APD) have put
a lot of work into this. It would be nice if we could have a good turnout from
FESMA since MAPES has put so much work into supporting these firefighters.)

Funeral arrangements will be handles by Northside Chapel, 12050 Crabapple
Road, Roswell, Georgia. 770-645-1414. Arrangements are currently incomplete.





Date: Fri, 4 May 2001 21:16:06 EDT

Reply-To: BillyLu@AOL.COM

Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>

From: Luci Donaldson <BillyLu@AOL.COM>

Subject: Firefighters Benefit

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

The employees of the American Cafe at Northpoint Mall would like to

announce a benefit for the families of Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball (Alpharetta FD).

The two men lost their lives this past weekend on a fishing trip off the coast of Florida. They were Alpharetta firemen and also worked part-time

at the Tinder Box in Northpoint Mall. The American Cafe will be donating all

of the tips generated for lunch on Wednesday, May 9th 2001 from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Please, if you cant' make it there send this email on to someone who might!

The American Cafe is located in the Northpoint Mall on the lower level

between Rich's and Sears!







Articles from: Appen Newspapers Inc. | 319 N. Main St. | Alpharetta, GA | 30004



Alpharetta mourns loss of firefighters


Recent and past stories on firefighters


by Jennifer Howard



May 31, 2001



Staff Writer


Alpharetta is mourning the loss of two firefighters who died during the weekend of April 28 while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.


Sadness has stretched deep into the community into churches, schools, city offices and shopping centers.


"In a city our size, people are the key to this place. In the case of someone in public service, you feel a special sense of loss," said Mayor Chuck Martin.


Firefighters held a vigil the evening of May 1 in front of the fire station headquarters, sitting quietly on the concrete pad over which fire trucks normally race, sirens screaming. They processed the bad news.


Earlier that Tuesday evening, just before the U.S. Coast Guard was preparing to end its search, a boat was spotted by a fishing vessel belonging to the Florida Wildlife Commission, which was assisting in the search. The overturned boat was found roughly 40 miles offshore, just south of Appalachicola.


Shortly after finding the boat, rescue crews located the bodies of Alpharetta firefighters Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball, still wearing life jackets. They were eight miles from the boat.


"Every day when you go to work in the morning and say goodbye to your family there is that thought Daddy might not be thought Daddy might not be coming home this time. But you just don't think about it when you go out to fish," fire training coordinator Joe Tassitano said.


More than 300 private boats helped search for the two lost firefighters.


Coast Guard crews combed the Gulf waters for more than 80 hours from Saturday to Tuesday, scanning 40,000 square miles, an area equivalent to the state of Virginia. They searched during the day and continued into the night using infrared imaging equipment.


"We just wish it would have turned out differently," said U.S. Coast Guard petty officer Mike Brock.


Since there had been no storm, the cause of the accident still remains a mystery.


There were 4- to 5-foot seas. The wind was 10 knots to 15 knots and visibility was eight to 10 miles. The two men were in an 18-foot bass boat with a 140 hp engine.


"Hypothermia is usually the first problem they encounter," Brock said.


Gulf water temperatures are typically between 60 degrees to 70 degrees in the spring. When submerged for hours, the human body temperature adjusts, and begins to drop.


"After that, sunburn and dehydration can play a part," Brock said, adding that sharks are only a minimal threat.


Nichols was a savvy boatman, according to former Alpharetta fireman and family friend Chip Garman.


Garman and Nichols introduced Kimball to sport fishing last October, staying in the same rental house and fishing in the same Big Bend waters.


Garman typically accompanies Nichols on the fishing excursions, but a business commitment prevented him from going this season.


Every spring and fall the group would head down to Keaton Beach, where they would fish for speckled trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel, and others.


"They had caught a nice big cobia. It was in the freezer at the house," Garman said.


It's hoped the boat will yield some clues as to what caused the accident.


"If they'd hit something, it will be real obvious," Garman said. "We all know when the boat goes over, you stay with the boat. I'm sure they stayed with the boat as long as they could."


Many of the 78 firefighters in the department have volunteered to work their days off to fill the lost firefighters' shifts.


Grief counselors and the city's police chaplain have visited the victims' families and spent time at each of the fire stations.


"Counselors have been living here with us. They've been a lot of help," said Chief Bill Bates. "We have to grieve too, like everyone else."


Just as they would in a house fire, the two men fought side-by-side and stayed together until the end.


"It's two in and two out. You don't leave your partner," said firefighter/EMT Leslie Marshall.


Firefighter/paramedic Lori Wood echoed the firefighting principle.


"We're glad they were together," she said. "We're so glad they were found."


Thinking about a recent incident at the Hilton Garden Inn, Wood began smiling. Firefighters responded to a kitchen fire, and while Kimball was attempting to wedge a sprinkler, he fell into a salad bar, making him the target of typical fire hall wit.


Other area firefighters have rallied to Alpharetta's side. Departments in Roswell and Fulton and Forsyth counties helped man stations when the news broke.


The Alpharetta Police Department has also supported grieving firefighters, looking after them like an older sibling.


"We're deeply saddened," said Alpharetta Police Capt. Kevin Phillips. "We consider them brothers in public safety. I hope the families can get through this.We want to offer any assistance we can."


At Station No. 3 on Westside Parkway, Kimball painted a mural, which may be adopted as the new department patch. It speaks of loyalty, dedication and honor. Kimball initialized it with a skull including the station number. At the time of his death, Nichols worked at Station No. 2, but he had previously worked at the Westside station.


"They are two of the most colorful people you could ever meet," said firefighter Buddy Dougherty. "They were real characters. It's going to be a lot quieter around here."


For now, the two men hold a prominent place in the minds of the people who make up this community. People will remember Kimball, clad in leather riding gear with a cigar in his mouth, stopping in at Killer Creek Harley-Davidson to check out the new inventory.


They will remember Nichols as a man with an incredible amount of common sense, and a man who loved the great outdoors and Wild West.


People will remember them when they see their families around town. Nichols is survived by wife, Laura, a teacher at the First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, and four children.


Kimball is survived by wife, Debbie, and two daughters.


Both of the lost firefighters worked part-time at the Tinderbox smoke shop at North Point Mall, where co-workers were in tears last week.


"The whole room lit up when they walked in. They will be missed terribly," said Debra Burgess, a co-worker.






Alpharetta firefighter lives on through art

November 04, 2004 By ROSEMARY TAYLOR




It's been more than three years since the tragic death of Alpharetta Fire Department firefighter Jay Kimball, but his memory continues to live on in the community he loved, thanks to the efforts of his wife.


Debra Kimball, in cooperation with Carter House Gallery and Framing, is auctioning off two paintings her artistic husband completed just a few months before he died with his friend, and fellow Alpharetta firefighter, Eli Nichols, in a sport fishing accident off the Florida gulf coast in April 2001.


"Art was his passion, and though he gave away, donated or bartered most of his work, his intention was to sell these two piece. He thought maybe he could actually start making some money at it," she said.


Debra Kimball says her husband studied art and drama in college, but became a firefighter and paramedic and was always the first to offer help to someone in need.


"Jay was so full of life, yet so humble. He was a very giving person," she said.


Prior to coming to Alpharetta, Kimball was a 911 supervisor in Oklahoma City, Okla., and was one of the first firefighters to respond to the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building.


Ironically, Kimball and Nichols became the reason for a response that April 2001 weekend.


What should have been a fun buddy trip turned deadly when the two firefighters didn't return from their day of fishing on the Gulf of Mexico, and were reported missing. Hundreds of Coast Guard, police and fire personnel, including fellow firefighters from Alpharetta, searched a 40,000 square mile area for more than 80 hours, looking for their 18-foot bass boat. Finally, after four days their capsized boat and bodies were discovered. Both Kimball and Nichols had died from hypothermia.


"There's not a day when I don't think of him. He'd love the honor of someone actually buying his artwork. He would be thrilled. I'm sure he'd have a big grin on his face," Debra added.


In a nod to Andy Warhol's famous Campbell Soup paintings, Kimball's acrylic paintings feature the classic logo designs of Pellegrino and Panna Italian bottled waters. The pieces are 2 feet by 4 feet and 4 feet by 4 feet in dimension. The minimum bid for each painting is $800.


Ten percent of the proceeds raised through the auction will go to the Alpharetta Fire Department, ten percent to the family of Eli Nichols, and the remaining proceeds to the estate of Jay Kimball. Kimball has two children and three grandchildren.


The auction will run from Nov. 4 until Nov. 15 at Carter House Gallery and Framing. All bids will be sealed. Debra Kimball and Robbie Rogers, Battalion Chief of the Alpharetta Fire Department, will announce the winners.


The paintings are on display at the gallery located at 3000 Old Alabama Road, Suite 108B, Alpharetta. Phone: 770-475-9603. Bids are accepted at the gallery only.


Spouse of firefighter plants tree in memory


by Jennifer Howard

December 27, 2001

Firefighter Jay Kimball will be remembered in Alpharetta, not only for his comedic personality and artistic ability, but also for his love of nature, as his wife and daughter recently planted a tree outside the fire station on Westside Parkway where he worked.


The planting of the Japanese maple is a symbol of closure for the family; the end of a difficult year. It is also a symbol of vitality, as the memory of Kimball will live on in the hearts and minds of his family, friends and fellow firefighters.


"We always wanted to plant one in the yard and never did," said wife Debra Kimball.


Jay Kimball lost his life late last April in a fishing accident in the Gulf of Mexico, which also claimed the life of Alpharetta firefighter Eli Nichols.


Like many spouses of fallen firefighters in 2001, Debra has been immersed in grief. She lost her job and was forced to move to a smaller house. But after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, something changed.


"I realized there were thousands of people feeling what I'm feeling. I decided to live," Debra said. "I saw the bravery of the survivors and I realized I wasn't being very brave."


She decided the only way to preserve Kimball's memory was for her to pick up the pieces and be happy again. She accepted his death, and got in touch with God.


"I don't know where this journey will take me, but if I was hiding in a closet and crying all the time, I wouldn't know," she said. "I wish I could go to New York and tell people, it's OK."


At the time of Kimball's funeral, it was difficult for Debra to see past the tears in her own eyes. She now looks back at the community with appreciation for the honor given to her late husband.


"I know Jay loved it," she said.


For those struggling with personal loss this year, she offered words of support: "You are going to be OK. Have faith. Put one foot in front of the other. Your higher power will show you your journey. Know that your loved ones are never truly gone. They are with you and they want to see you do well. Do something for someone else. It takes you out of your self a little bit."


Alpharetta mourns death of firemen


(from 2001 Year in Review)


Alpharetta mourned the loss of two firefighters who died during the weekend of April 28 while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.


Sadness stretched far into the community into churches, schools, city offices and shopping centers after it was learned that Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball had lost their lives in the Gulf, succumbing to hypothermia after their fishing boat apparently capsized.


The Alpharetta community rallied to support the families of the fallen firefighters. Businesses, city employees, and residents stepped in to help. More than $65,000 was been raised for the families Roughly $50,000 came from city employees, who donated PTO (paid time off) hours.


"They gave, and gave and gave and they still are," said Alpharetta Personnel Director Shannon Forester of city employees.


People who witnessed the funerals for Nichols and Kimball could not help but be affected by the stately and solemn ceremonies, as the two men were laid to rest with full departmental honors.


Police, fire and emergency crews from all over Georgia came to pay their respects.


The story made national news, as more than 300 private boats helped in the search.


Just before the U.S. Coast Guard was preparing to end its search, crew on a fishing vessel spotted the overturned boat, roughly 40 miles offshore, just south of Appalachicola.


Shortly after finding the boat, rescue crews located the bodies of Nichols and Kimball. Still wearing life jackets, they were eight miles from the boat.


The cause of the accident remains a mystery.



Motorcyclists raise money for charity


Bikers raise money for families of firefighters lost in Gulf

by Jennifer Howard

October 11, 2001


More than 280 motorcyclists roared through Cobb County Saturday, Sept. 29 to raise money for the families of two Alpharetta firefighters who died in the Gulf of Mexico last April.


The string of cyclists went on for miles, as riders and passengers in the annual Shelby Ride pitched in to support the children of Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball.


Nichols, 47, and Kimball, 42, died after their bass boat mysteriously capsized off the shore of Carrabel. Both were married with kids. As a result of the ride, each family will be given roughly $4,000.


"They would have done the same thing. That's what it's all about. We're brothers and sisters in the fire department," said Alpharetta Battalion Chief Robert Rogers. "Knowing Jay and Eli, they would have been totally amazed. They were humble enough they wouldn't have expected so many people going out of their way for them."


It was the first time in the Shelby's seven-year history that money was raised for firefighters, and not police officers.


"I had people calling from as far away as Florida and Shreveport, Louisiana to do the ride. Some people won't miss it for the world," said Sgt. B.J. Brown, a Cobb County policeman and president of the Iron Pigs motorcycle club, which is comprised of public safety officers.


Traffic control for the event was provided by the Cobb County Police Department, who held traffic at intersections as motorcyclists passed.


People in cars waved flags. Military personnel along the roads saluted. Some probably thought it was a funeral procession or a fund raiser for victims of the recent East Coast terrorist attacks.


One man stopped an officer and asked about the occasion. He then reached into his pocket and offered him money.


"Jay would have been impressed, knowing the ride was for the kids," said friend and Fulton County Firefighter Chuck Miller. "I'm sure he was watching."


Riders assembled at Earl Small's Harley-Davidson on South Cobb Drive and proceeded at approximately 30 mph through a scenic portion of Cobb County. The 30-mile ride culminated at HammerJax, where donated goods were raffled, along with Kimball's personal 1978 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead chopper.


"It was a good ride. We had a great day for riding. It was good and cool," said Cobb County Police Lt. Steve Goodyear. "We have a lot of people who come back year after year."


The Shelby Ride, which was launched in 1995, was named after the daughter of Cobb County Policeman Bobby Milton, who was killed in a car accident with his wife after being struck by a drunk driver. His daughter, Shelby, was not yet two years old and broke her neck, but survived.


In 1999, roughly 400 motorcyclists participated in the ride, which benefitted the families of slain Cobb County police officers Steve Reeves and Steve Gilner, who died in a shoot-out that July.


"I hope people understand we are always trying to raise money for a good cause. There are so many now, I hope we don't get lost in the mix," Brown said.



Love of cycles set Kimball free




Staff Writer


When he wasn't working or with his family, Jay Kimball was riding his Harley-Davidson.


A man who seemed to love adventure found solace and relaxation on his two-wheeled machines. He owned several throughout his life, most of the American persuasion, including various Harleys and an Indian.


The Alpharetta firefighter purchased a 1997 Heritage Springer from Killer Creek Harley-Davidson in March, only weeks before his life would come to an end on a fishing trip off Florida's Gulf Coast.


"Every time you saw him he was in full Harley gear with a stogie and a big smile," said Keith Holden, sales manager at Killer Creek.


Kimball's untimely death has been a topic of conversation in morning meetings at the Roswell motorcycle dealership. People there just can't believe he's gone.


"I was thinking the whole time when Jay gets back we're going to sit down and write a book about his ordeal. I thought someday, we would look back and laugh about it. But that wasn't meant to be," said Kevin Mitchell.


On display at the Tinderbox smoke shop in North Point Mall, where Kimball worked part-time, there is a Harley he built from the wheels up. He had planned to donate it to the Alpharetta Police Athletic League for a raffle.


It now sits in the store as a reminder of what a community has lost.


It is a 1978 custom chopper, built on a 1957 hard tail frame. Kimball used a 1978 Shovel head Stroker engine, a 1965 Fat Bob tank and added chain drive and electric start.


He probably had no idea his creation would someday bring perfect strangers to tears.


In front of the bike stands a sympathy card, flowers and the figure of a firefighter. They let passers-by know that someone dear has been lost.


Community supports lost firefighters' families




Staff Writer


The Alpharetta community has rallied to support the families of the two firefighters who lost their lives in the Gulf of Mexico last month. Businesses, city employees, and residents have stepped in to help.


More than $65,000 has been raised for the families of Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball, who lost their lives during a fishing trip the weekend of April 28. Roughly $50,000 has come from city employees, who have donated PTO (paid time off) hours.


"They gave, and gave and gave and they still are," said Alpharetta Personnel Director Shannon Forester of city employees.


The city is writing checks to the families for each hour of leave forfeited by employees. So far, more than 100 employees have donated 3,263 hours.


"We allowed them to donate their hours to the families. We had tremendous outpouring as you can see. We had one person donate 228 hours and they only accrue 240 a year," Forester said.


In addition, the fire department has been actively selling T-shirts, netting $5,000 for the families.


And businesses and people in the community have graciously donated more than $10,000 in revenues to an account set up at First Union Bank. The bank refused to say exactly how much money has been donated.


"It's going well. We're extremely proud of the city employees supporting the two families and helping them during this time," said Deputy Chief Carl Hall. "It's been greatly appreciated by the families."


The Revue&News is donating $500 and encouraging other area businesses to do the same.


The wait staff at The American Cafe donated $1,660 in tips from a May 9 benefit.


Publix, Kroger and Schlotzsky's Deli donated meals to the firefighters during the three shifts after the bad news was learned. Many others have contributed.


"One gentleman brought an envelope with $2 in it to the front door of city hall," Forester said. "It just makes me cry thinking about it."


Firefighters have donated personal time to help the families with home repairs.


"We're never lost track of what we had to do,"Hall said. "We're getting back into the regular routine of business, slowly but surely, and taking steps to hire for the vacancies."


Kimball, 42, is survived by his wife, Debbie, and two daughters.


Nichols, 47, is survived by his wife, Laura, and four children.


"I just got the list of the people who have donated their PTO," Kimball's wife said. "All those people make my heart swell so much I think it could explode From the mayor, to Shannon Forester (human resources director) to the battalion chiefs to people in Public Works It's a God send. I will never live in another city."


Debbie and daughter, Kristina, are planning to leave the home in Roswell, which they no longer can afford, and move to Alpharetta.


Dolphins discovered lost firefighters first




Staff Writer


Bottlenose dolphins found lost Alpharetta firemen Eli Nichols and Jay Kimball before any human could.


When the crew of fishing vessel Flying Alpha discovered their bodies at approximately 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 2 in the Gulf of Mexico, there were dolphins swimming around the men.


Apparently it is not uncommon for dolphins to come to the aid of humans when they are in trouble.


"They have a sense when there is someone in danger," said Louis Diaz, petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard. "They have assisted humans in life and death situations. I don't know how they know, but they do."


It is hard to say if the creatures were trying to save the men, protect them from predators or keep them company during their last hours.


"Dolphins are sometimes very curious or playful animals, they are known to sometimes try to support sick and injured members of their kind, and there are reports of them sometimes seeming to come to the aid of humans in the water, but there is no way for us at this time to be able to know what they were doing with any certainty in this case," said Randy Wells of Dolphin Quest,an organization that offers dolphin discovery programs to the public.


Kimball's wife Debbie feels certain the three mammals were there to protect the two men. And it comforts her.


"My husband and I shared dolphin gifts for years. He loved everything about the ocean," she said. "That is the way my husband would have wanted it. I'm sure he closed his eyes and was thankful he was surrounded by dolphins."


More than 200 private boats helped search the Gulf waters for the two lost firefighters.


Coast Guard crews combed the area for more than 80 hours from Saturday to Tuesday, scanning 40,000 square miles, an area equivalent to the state of Virginia. The cause of the accident still remains a mystery.


There were 4- to 5-foot seas. The wind was 10 to 15 knots and visibility was eight to 10 miles.


Shortly after finding the 18-foot bass boat 40 miles off the shore of Appalachicola, rescue crews located the bodies of the two men, who were still wearing life jackets. They were roughly eight miles from the boat. Hypothermia is believed to be the cause of death.


The families feel a special appreciation for the generosity of the folks at the Keaton Beach Marina, in Perry, Fla., and for the Alpharetta firefighters who were with them there: Ken Whitaker, Robby Rogers, Chip Garmon, Joe Popadics and Craig Schmitz.


Kimball's novel depicts fireman's storied career




Staff Writer


Jay Kimball's wife wants people to hear his voice the words he wrote in a manuscript about his 20-year career in emergency work.


What people may not know is that the late Alpharetta firefighter directed emergency response crews in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.


Kimball was sickened when he couldn't reach a man who was clearly dead three stories above because he wanted desperately for him to be transported back to his family.


It is the side of life few people see, and a side people in emergency service rarely discuss.


They hide behind humor and uphold the image of strength that is expected of them while continuing to work hard to save lives.


Jay Kimball's wife wants to see her husband's work published, even if it is only for the eyes of other people in emergency services. It is a story about EMS life a fictionalized biography of sorts.


"What the manuscript is is the biography of his life on the street for 20 years and all the things he saw as a paramedic and firefighter," Kimball's wife Debbie said.


The couple, who met in Indianapolis 10 years ago, were living in Tulsa when the bomb went off. Kimball was paged and there began one of the most distressing weeks of his life.


"He would call me from down there in tears. There was a 2-mile square block of devastation. It looked like Beruit. My company let us out of work and we stood in line for seven hours to give blood and we all did," she said. "It had a profound affect on him. That's what affected him most these young children who never got to live a life."


As for Timothy McVeigh's delayed execution, Debbie said she knows her husband is furious.


"He wanted to strap a bomb to his butt in the desert and cover him with honey and let him wonder when it was going to go off," she said. "He saw what this man did and the book encompasses that."


Kimball also responded to the cat walk collapse at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City. The horror he saw is indescribable.


Debbie, who works as a technical advisor and software instructor for Cintech Solutions, hopes to have at least 100 copies published for other firefighters and those working in emergency services.


"Jay was just a guy who gave a darn about people," she said.




Links: James Morton Kimball


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