Friends and family grieve fire recruit who died during training

Reporter: Haley Zarcone Writer: Elyssa Morataya
Published: Updated:

Family and friends are grieving the loss of 22-year-old Nathaniel Wilcox, a firefighter applicant who was training at Station 11 in Fort Myers.

“Nathan was probably one of the kindest, most, you know, purest people I’ve ever met,” said Melissa Martinez, one of Nathan’s friends.

“Nathan was probably one of the kindest, most, you know, purest people I’ve ever met,” said Samantha Glasheen, Nathan’s cousin.

Wilcox passed away Tuesday while taking that next step toward his goal of becoming a firefighter.

“In our whole process that we had all our applicants do is actually send over a three-minute video and answer one simple question,” said Tracy McMillion, Fire Chief of Fort Myers Fire Department. “We took some time last night to rewatch this video several times. And you could just tell who this individual was by his video.”

In the video, Wilcox recounts a memory of when he saved the life of a loved one.

“A few years ago, I was involved in a freak accident where I was stabbed, while on a date with a loved one,” said Nathan in the video.

Martinez described the incident to WINK News.

“A man who was very clearly very drunk, very, you know, not all there. Um, he kind of was violently getting in our way. He charged right at us. We all started to run and I got stuck.” said Martinez. “All I remember, all of a sudden, was just getting a pull from behind my shirt when I kind of came to and got up. I had seen that it was Nathan who had taken the hit and he was fighting this person off.”

“I was treated and transported by fire rescue, and the security and care that I received from those firefighters profoundly affected me for the rest of my life,” Wilcox said in the video.

Nathan’s cousin told WINK News reporter Haley Zarcone that Nathan’s smile, kindness and memories are helping his family stay strong.

“I know anyone that is probably seeing these pictures or saw his video for this,” said Glasheen. “You just know. He was a great person. He was passionate. He was strong. He was smart. He was so independent. You just it’s just, it’s hard. You know, I’m saying it. It makes me proud.”

On Wednesday, the Fort Myers Fire Department said they’re making Wilcox an honorary firefighter.

They plan to present Wilcox’s family with his helmet and jacket.

His cousin says they plan to hold a memorial for him as soon as next week.

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