- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

PLYMOUTH, Ind. (AP) - A new memorial has been dedicated to honor five northern Indiana firefighters who died in a crash while on their way to a house blaze more than 30 years ago.

More than 100 people gathered for Sunday’s dedication ceremony at the black stone monument near the crash scene along Indiana 17, a few miles west of Plymouth.

The monument replaces a memorial of five wooden crosses that was placed on a utility pole soon after the July 31, 1982, crash when the Plymouth fire engine rolled into a ditch at a curve in the road.

Brandon Van Vactor - who was a year old when his father, Gary, died in the crash - said he’s grateful for the new monument, which has images of those killed, a description of what happened and a prayer.

“All families probably feel the same, they are happy this has finally taken place and thankful for all the people who took the time and effort,” he told WSBT-TV.

Others who knew the firefighters said they hoped the monument would keep memories of them alive for many years to come.

“This monument, the more I got to thinking about it, will be here 100 years from now, or 200 years from now,” former Fire Chief Wayne Smith told WNDU-TV. “People will realize what happened back in 1982.”

Organizers of the monument project said the firefighters’ deaths were a huge blow for the small city about 25 miles south of South Bend.

“It has been a long time coming,” West Township Trustee Terry Borggren said. “While I was working on the project, a lot of people would stop and say that, ‘Hey, finally something is being done.’”

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