Culture

Oakland firefighter hailed as ‘unstoppable’ force laid to rest


ALAMEDA — The Oakland firefighter who drowned last month in Southern California was remembered Wednesday as an “unstoppable” force and budding star in the mold of his father, a fireman who died just more than a year after the two started working together.

Hundreds of people on Wednesday gathered on the USS Hornet in Alameda to mourn Caeden Laffen, 25, who died in the waters off San Diego two weeks ago while in Southern California for the California Firefighter Summer Games.

It marked the second tragedy to befall the Laffan family in under four years. Caeden’s father, Oakland Fire Department Assistant Chief Sean Laffan, died of a heart attack in the line of duty in November 2020. He was 42.

The fact that so many people had to gather again so soon was almost unbearable for those left grieving Wednesday inside the packed naval ship.

“Today we remember and honor Caeden,” said fire Chaplain Jayson Landeza, adding that he would “pray that he is united with his beloved father Sean in eternal life.”

Laffan was at a San Diego beach on June 27 with other people and “was out having a nice time” when “tragedy struck,” Oakland Fire Chief Damon Covington said last month. It is unknown if the others were also firefighters, and authorities did not return phone calls seeking additional details Wednesday. An autopsy report has yet to be completed.

Laffan and his brothers spent their childhoods running around fire stations during visits with their father, a well-regarded veteran of the department. Somehow, his friends and fellow firefighters said, Caeden Laffan and his brothers always seemed destined to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Both of his brothers, Cooper and Connor Laffen, also work as firemen in Oakland. The former started working there in 2019, while the latter is currently in Oakland Fire Department’s training academy.

Caeden Laffen himself began his career with the Stockton Fire Department in December 2018, where he made a name for himself as a “super sharp kid,” for whom “everything was a competition to be the best,” said Stockton Fire Capt. Justin Wilson, one of the men assigned to oversee the Caeden Laffan’s academy.

Caeden Laffan left Stockton for Oakland in the summer of 2019, just after passing the academy. The reason, Wilson said, was clear.

“All he wanted to do was work with his dad,” Wilson said.

The younger Laffan’s death prompted Chief Covington to order the entire department to halt their trainings for a week and instead focus on each firefighter’s mental health, the chief said Wednesday during the service.

“Sometimes you just have to pause and say let’s focus on the things that really matter,” said Covington, adding that the young Laffan was “one of those really special people.”

Scores of firefighters from across the state came to pay their respects, including from the cities of Alameda, Modesto, Woodland and Rocklin. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao sat in the front row, along with new Oakland police Chief Floyd Mitchell, while officers and deputies from across the region — including Fremont, Walnut Creek and the Alameda County …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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