The pews at St. Dominic Catholic Church were packed Friday morning as family, friends and others came to mourn and remember Dennis McDaniels, a Philadelphia firefighter who died June 2 while competing in a triathlon in Cape May.
McDaniels, 36, a 12-year veteran of the Fire Department who lived in Northeast Philadelphia, suffered an apparent cardiac arrest during the swim portion of the race.
He leaves behind his wife, MaryEllen, and his sons Jake, 10, Bryce, 7, Gavin 5, and Jude, 1.
“Daddy was a real-life superhero. He loved you so much,” his brother, Kevin McDaniels, said in his eulogy, addressing the young boys.
Fire Capt. Joseph Farrell said McDaniels was part of the initial response to the 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Port Richmond. He snaked his way into the bowels of the locomotive and stayed inside a passenger car for hours, helping to treat and rescue more than 15 people, all of whom survived, Farrell said.
McDaniels’ response to the derailment earned him the IAFF Local 22 Heroism Award.
“He will not fade. He cannot,” Farrell said. “He is a part of who we are and who we will become.”
Frankford Avenue in front of St. Dominic was filled with firefighters before the Mass, and the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums band played as McDaniels’ casket was carried into the church. One of his young sons walked into the funeral holding his father’s fire helmet.
A GoFundMe page set up for McDaniels’ family has raised more than $204,000 as of Tuesday.
One of his close friends, Mike, who used to live with McDaniels in an apartment above McNally’s Tavern in Mayfair, said he was a “larger-than-life person.”
McDaniels was most recently stationed at Ladder 15 at Foulkrod and Darrah streets in Frankford. He graduated from Father Judge High School in 2000 and Holy Family University in 2005.
In addition to his wife, sons and brother, McDaniels is survived by father Donald; mother Linda; in-laws Gene and Mary McFadden; and many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and friends. His brother, Jeffrey McDaniels, passed away about two months ago. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org