ELSIE, Mich. (WLNS) — Zach Miller had always wanted to be a firefighter.
He started as a cadet at the fire department in Else, north of Lansing, at just 16 and graduated from the fire academy last June.
On Tuesday evening, just hours after his tragic death at age 20, he was remembered as a hero.
Miller was driving to Lansing where he worked part-time as a mechanic. Deputies say he was involved in a minor crash near St. Johns, between Lansing and Elsie.
“There was an accident. He got out and was trying to render aid to another person when another vehicle came up and that’s when he was struck,” Elsie Fire Department Assistant Chief Shane Grinnell said.
Miller graduated from Ovid-Elsie High School just a few years ago. He was one of the youngest members of the Elsie Area Fire Department, but Grinnell said that never slowed him down.
“Even if he wasn’t the first one out of the door, he was on his way. I guarantee he was showing up to everything with a smile on his face, willing to do whatever we ask him,” Grinnell said.
In a small community, word spreads quickly.
The fire department made the heartbreaking announcement just before 1 p.m. Tuesday. Within minutes, prayers and condolences started pouring in across social media.
On Tuesday night, Grinnell said that the brotherhood of firefighters was put to the test even more than usual.
“We have 25 guys on our department; a couple of them are related to Zach. We’re all a brotherhood, but we’ve got close family ties right now. The chief and I, we’re just trying to get through today. We talked to his family and we’re making some plans and arrangements and also trying to take care of our guys we have still here at the station,” said Grinnell.
Departments from around the area say they will cover for Elsie as they get through this process.
Deputies say the driver of the vehicle that hit Miller is 17 years old. An investigation into the crash continues.