GALLERY: The wake and funeral for fallen Wilmington firefighter Lt. Christopher Leach

By Amy Cherry/DJ McAneny 9:09am, September 30, 2016 - Updated 6:19pm, September 30, 2016
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry was inside the church.
On Friday, the community gathered to remember Wilmington Fire Department Lt. Christopher Leach, who was killed along with Senior Fireman Jerry Fickes last weekend battling a Canby Park blaze investigators have said was intentionally set.

Leach had wanted to be a firefighter since the tender age of five. His friend William Christopher, III recalled one of his oldest memories.

"There was a special access in his old house--I still remember it very well because it was a main element of a game we played," he recounted. "Chris would get out his Fisher Price toolkit...for whatever reason, we always pretended there were children stuck on the other side of that panel in the bathroom...we'd pretend to undo the bolts and screws until we rescued each and every kid in there," he said. "We would do that, on average, two dozen times a visit when I came over."

To the standing room only crowd inside St. Elizabeth's Church in Bayard Square, Leach was remembered as a man who missed his own father and kept laminated memorial cards in locations throughout his daily life--including next to a Father's Day letter written by his daughter, Abby, in his locker at work.

"Chris was a fun-loving kid who grew up to be a fun-loving adult," said Deacon Martin J. Leach. "More importantly, he grew up to be the kind of adult we'd all like to be. His greatest role was as a father...Chris had a beautiful relationship with his children...The love returned to Chris from all of his children was what he lived for."

The program for Lt. Christopher Leach's funeral services./(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

The program for Lt. Christopher Leach's funeral services./(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Leach left behind three children; his love for them is well-known, but their love for him was visible Friday inside St. Elizabeth's Church as his son Brendan carried his father's firefighting helmet.

"His baby girl, growing into a young woman, Meghan; his tough and tender Abby, and his mini-me, who started to overtake the old man in stature, Brendan," said friend William Christopher, III in a eulogy. "You three are his entire world. Everything he did in every waking hour revolved around a better life for you three...just remember that his love for you three will never, ever go away."

Deacon recounted the words of a fellow firefighter in his homily.

"One day, I hope to be half the dad that he was; one day, I hope to be half the fireman he was."





Christopher also remembered Leach as the guy always willing to lend a helping hand.

"There was never a time he ever refused to help anyone out. The only question he would ever ask is: 'When do you need me?' said Christopher. "He was the best friend every one in here ever had."

Wilmington Fire Department Chaplain Brad Martin called the loss of Leach and Fickes the department's darkest night.

"This great tragedy has wounded us so, so deeply," he said. "Losing Chris and Jerry, for the department, it feels like the knockout blow."

But he said the department must and will recover from its first loss of a firefighter in the line of duty in nearly two decades.

"We will get back up because Chris will help us; Jerry will help us," he said. "We cannot forget them. They are now part of us."

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

So many people showed up to grieve and pay their respects, the line stretched along the grounds outside with many unable to get inside for the funeral mass.







Fellow firefighter Jerry Fickes was also remembered at a public viewing Thursday at the Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin. He, too, was laid to rest Friday in a private ceremony.

Lt. Christopher Leach being carried into the church/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach being carried into the church/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach's body arrives at his wake and funeral/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach's body arrives at his wake and funeral/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach being transported through Wilmington/(Mike Phillips/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach being transported through Wilmington/(Mike Phillips/WDEL)

Mourners gathered awaiting the arrival of the truck carrying Lt. Leach's body/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Mourners gathered awaiting the arrival of the truck carrying Lt. Leach's body/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

More of the service members awaiting the arrival of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

More of the service members awaiting the arrival of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The wake for Leach took place throughout the rainy and windy morning hours on September 30, 2016.

A look inside St. Elizabeth's Church for the funeral of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

A look inside St. Elizabeth's Church for the funeral of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)





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Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or on Twitter

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Additional contributors to this compilation include Lauren Huet and Mike Phillips.




Hundreds honor fallen Wilmington firefighter Lt. Leach

By Lauren Huet 6:12pm, September 30, 2016
VIDEO: Lauren Huet reports on Lt. Leach's funeral
Hundreds of firefighters attended Lt. Christopher Leach's funeral Friday. Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes were killed in a Canby Park house fire Saturday, when the first floor collapsed.

A police motorcade escorted the fire truck carrying Lt. Christopher Leach's casket to St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church.

Bagpipers and drummers played as pall bearers carried the casket from the fire truck into the church. One of those pall bearers was Tim Taggart.

"I knew Chris very well," said Taggart. "He was one of the best firefighters I've ever worked with. I've known him since high school in Salesianum and we've been very good friends ever since."

Both Leach and Taggart became firefighters. Taggart is the vice president of Local 1590 Wilmington Firefighters.

Hundreds of firefighters stood at attention in front of the church as Leach's casket arrived.

"In the fire service having this respect for any fallen brother or sister is a touching tribute, but for us to have that here and for all these people to rally around for Chris and Jerry," said Taggart. "It's absolutely one of the most moving things I've ever experienced in my life."

Watching his friend's funeral reminds Taggart of another funeral.

"I think of the last time I was at a funeral and I was with Chris," said Taggart. "When we were done we hugged the brothers and sisters from there, and we go on our way, and we do our jobs. Get back on the fire trucks, and that's the medicine. Get back on the fire truck and do your job."

Taggart says Leach had a love for life. They nicknamed him "Danger."

"He was 'Danger,' and Danger is not the danger that you would think in a scary sort of way. He was just a prankster," said Taggart. "He was always dangerous, you always had to keep your eye on him. Never turn your back on Chris because he's going to get you."

Leach loved his family.

"His kids meant the world to him. Him with his feet in the sand, with his kids around him was the best thing in the world," said Taggart.

The line to get into the cathedral for Leach's funeral mass stretched down the church driveway. Seats filled up before many could get inside.

Some firefighters traveled from across the country.

"Thank you. I say thank you for Chris and his family, for Jerry and his family. It means the world to them."

Honoring a great firefighter who risked his life to help others.

"Chris Leach was a Salesian. He was a good man and a great father," said Taggart.

A joint memorial service honoring Leach and Fickes will be held at 1pm Saturday October 1, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. It is open to all firefighters, first responders, friends, and the public. Doors open at 12pm. Expect heavy traffic in the area Saturday.


Get ready for the weekend with WDEL On the Town

By Peter MacArthur 8:24am, September 29, 2016 - Updated 1:34pm, September 29, 2016
Our latest installment of WDEL On the Town with Brianna Hansen:

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Click to interact

Friday evening, take in the rare chance to experience The Brandywine Zoo after hours and with no children present as you sip and sample your way through craft beer, wine and delicious bites from local restaurants during their annual "Brew at the Zoo."

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This Saturday, the Delaware Historical Society is celebrating the grand reopening of the Delaware History Museum plus the Opening of the New Center for African American Heritage on Market Street. The block-party style festivities include live music and performances, activities for kids, and the Rolling Revolution food trucks.

Speaking of food, there's a community pop-up brunch happening Sunday at Bellefonte Brewing Company. Enjoy vinyl tunes while you browse the work of three local artists and #DigIN to a delicious, locally sourced vegan meal that is 100% omnivore approved.

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Finally, next Wednesday our friends at Hagley kick off their After Hours Series with Play. Make. Sip. It's simple--play with other young professionals as you make a small robot and sip on something from their cash bar!


Wilmington Firefighter Jerry Fickes remembered as a good friend, father and hero

By Joe Irizarry 12:32am, September 30, 2016 - Updated 10:32am, September 30, 2016
VIDEO: Many pay respects at viewing for Wilmington Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes.
Friends, family and firefighters came together Friday night for the first of several planned memorials and services to remember Wilmington Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, who died in the Canby Park fire early Saturday morning.

The dreary night with the pouring down rain and wind set the scene for the sadness felt by many walking out of the Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin.

Many remembered Fickes as a good husband, father, friend and hero.

Donna DeFilippis knows the family as their children went to school together at Cab Calloway.

"The family is holding up fairly well considering the situation," said DeFilippis. "Laura is a friend of mine. (I know) Jerry from school, and our kids went to school together, and it's a very supportive family, a religious family. I think they'll get through this."

Those not affiliated with any fire department marveled on how the first responder community comes together at times like this, among those attending the viewing included a lieutenant from the Bridgeport, Connecticut Fire Department.

But those within the firefighter community showed up in large numbers. Maria Milton is the wife of a Wilmington firefighter.

"It's a tight community--the Wilmington Fire Department--we're always there for each other. I'm a wife of a Wilmington firefighter, and to be there for her and the family to give great support. Like I said, we're a very tight family, and we'll help them get through this," said Milton.

Those not associated with any fire department, but friendly with the Fickes family also showed up to support the family.

"Utter devastation knowing that their son, Ben, is a freshman in college right now, and in his first month of school, he learns that he's lost his dad, so that's tough," said Lynn Fabian, a teacher who taught Fickes son in 2nd grade.

There was also anger and disbelief that Fickes' death was caused by a possible arson. Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, the daughter of the homeowner was charged with arson and murder in the Canby Park fire that killed Fickes and Lt. Christopher Leach, who will be remembered in a public viewing and funeral service at St. Elizabeth's Church in Wilmington. Fickes will also be laid to rest Friday in a private service. Both firefighters will be memorialized at the Chase Center on the Riverfront Saturday in a service that's expected to draw thousands, including Vice President Joe Biden.

"It's such a waste, it was an unnecessary fire, it's an unnecessary death, I hope she's horribly penalized," said Lon Marcus of Pike Creek. Marcus knows the Fickes family.

Fabian like many who talked with WDEL heard of the charges at the viewing.

"I really don't think you can make sense of it," she said. "No thoughts."


Daughter of property owner charged with murder in death of Wilmington firefighters

By Amy Cherry/DJ McAneny 12:32pm, September 29, 2016 - Updated 10:34pm, September 29, 2016
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.
The 27-year-old daughter of the owner of a residence where a fire claimed the lives of two firefighters was arrested and charged with arson, assault, and murder.

According to Asst. State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio, the woman charged was Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, 27, daughter of the owner of 1927 Lakeview Road, where a fire claimed the lives of Lt. Christopher Leach and Sr. Firefighter Jerry Fickes on September 24, 2016.

Lt. Christopher Leach, left, and Sr. FF Jerry Fickes, right/WDEL file

Lt. Christopher Leach, left, and Sr. FF Jerry Fickes, right/WDEL file

A memorial service for the two firefighters is currently scheduled for Saturday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Thousands, including Vice President Joe Biden, are expected to attended.

Additionally injured in the fire and subsequent rescue attempt were Lt. John Cawthray, Sr. Firefighter Ardythe Hope, Sr. Firefighter Terrence Tate and Firefighter Brad Speakman.

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Clockwise from top-left: Hope, Speakman, Tate, and Cawthray

She has been charged with two counts first-degree murder, four counts of second-degree assault, first-degree arson, and seven counts of first-degree reckless endangering.





Court documents, obtained by WDEL, revealed Fana-Ruiz was allegedly angry, went into the basement of the home, and set it ablaze.

Seven others were inside the home at the time of the fire; they all made it out alive.

Fana-Ruiz admitted to investigators she was drunk and on anxiety medication and said she "could not remember anything else" from that night, according to court records.



Mayor Dennis P. Williams and Chief Anthony Goode thanked the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office, the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Wilmington Police Department, the Delaware Attorney General's Office, and all the agencies--local, state, or federal--which assisted in responding to the fire and securing of the crime scene.

Fana-Ruiz is being held on $6 million cash bail.


Child dies from injuries almost a week after a serious car accident near Camden

By Joe Irizarry 7:40pm, September 30, 2016
Child dies six days after accident west of Camden
A child, 5, has died as a result of injuries from a serious car accident on September 17 near Camden.

Matthew Long died on September 23rd at AI DuPont Children's Hospital where he had been in critical condition since the crash.

His father, Mark Long of Camden, was driving a 2002 Lexus RX300 northbound on Oak Point School Road when it rolled over and ejected the two after failing to negotiate a left curve west of Camden. The Lexus left the west side of the roadway, landing on its roof in a private yard.

Mark Long was admitted to Kent General Hospital in critical condition.

Delaware State Police continues to investigate the accident.

Police say that after an initial investigation speed may have been a contributing factor in the accident, and it is believed that they were both not properly restrained in the vehicle.

So far, no charges have been filed.


Say bye-bye to cheap gas in New Jersey

By Associated Press 6:37pm, September 30, 2016
Gas taxes in New Jersey would go up 23 cents per gallon under a deal reached between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic leaders.

Christie announced the eight-year deal which would also eliminate the estate tax and cut the sales tax Friday afternoon. He held a statehouse news conference with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

The deal to raise $2 billion a year still needs approval in both houses of the Legislature.

The estate tax would be phased out over the next year and a half and the sales tax would be cut by 3/8ths of a percentage point. There will also be tax credits for veterans and the working poor.

It would be the first gas tax hike since 1988.

Christie had ordered a shutdown of most transit projects earlier this summer.


Year-long Smyrna investigation nets 6 arrests, recovery of heroin and guns

By DJ McAneny 11:04am, September 30, 2016
Richard Butcher, left, and Jessica Elvey, right
Smyrna Police charged six individuals at the culmination of a year-long drug investigation that resulted in the seizure of heroin, cash, firearms, and marijuana.

According to authorities, the Smyrna Police Department Special Tactics And Response Team executed a search warrant at a residence in the unit block of North Fairfield Drive at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

Six individuals, all from Smyrna, were taken into custody without incident at that time:
  • Richard Butcher, 39
  • Jessica Elvey, 26
  • Shawn Jones, 43
  • Michelle Jones, 43
  • Aaron Tidwell, 27
  • Erik Roberts, 31


  • Recovered at the residence, authorities said they seized 747 bags of powder heroin weighing 11.2 grams, 1.1 grams of brown tar heroin, 21.1 grams of marijuana, numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia, two handguns--including one reported stolen in a Delaware burglary--ammunition, and $1,048 in currency. A motor vehicle allegedly being used to transport and sell heroin was also seized.

    Butcher was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited-twice previously convicted violent felon, possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person prohibited-previously convicted violent felon, receiving a stolen firearm, possession of a controlled substance-Tier V quantity, possesses with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia-non-marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia-marijuana related, and possession or consumption of a quantity of marijuana for personal use-21 or older. He was committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in lieu of $163,202 cash-only bond.

    Elvey was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, receiving a stolen firearm, possession of a controlled substance-Tier V quantity, two counts possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia-non-marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia-marijuana related, and possession or consumption of a quantity of marijuana for personal use-21 or older. She was committed to the Delores J. Baylor Correctional Center in lieu of $73,102 cash-only bond.

    Shawn and Michelle Jones, Tidwell, and Roberts were all charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, and issues a summons before being released.


    Marshallton-area man facing 67 years after guilty plea on drug, gun charges

    By DJ McAneny 2:26pm, September 30, 2016
    Joshua Chattin
    A 23-year-old Marshallton-area man is facing up to 67 years in prison after pleading guilty to a number of weapons and drug charges.

    Joshua Chattin pled guilty to possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, drug dealing heroin-Tier IV, second-degree conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited.

    A probation officer's visit to Chattin's apartment in October 2015 uncovered heroin, marijuana, and multiple firearms, including two loaded 9 mm handguns, a .45 caliber handgun, and a revolver capable of firing .410-gauge shotgun shells.

    When sentenced in Superior Court, he faces 14 to 67 years in prison.


    Newark gas station robbed at knifepoint

    By DJ McAneny 10:29am, September 30, 2016
    A Newark gas station clerk was robbed at knifepoint early in the morning, city authorities announced Friday.

    According to Newark Police, a man entered the Sunoco gas station at 1106 South College Avenue at 1:30 a.m. on September 30, 2016, and pulled out a knife.

    Police said the suspect, described only as a white male, demanded money, then reached into the register and removed an undisclosed amount of cash before fleeing on foot.

    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Det. William Anderson at 302.366.7100 ext. 3469, or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


    Man charged with wearing plastic-wrap bikini on New Jersey beach

    By Associated Press 6:37pm, September 30, 2016
    Stephen Wojciehowski was arrested in NJ for allegedly wearing a plastic wrap bikini. (Photo/Beach Haven, NJ Police)
    A 59-year-old New Jersey man is facing charges after police said he wore a bikini fashioned out of plastic wrap on a Long Beach Island beach.

    Stephen Wojciehowski was charged with lewdness after he spent two days on a Beach Haven beach wearing a homemade, clear plastic wrap bikini in which is genitals were clearly exposed, NJ.com reported.

    The Stafford Township man was arrested Monday and released pending further court proceedings.

    It was not immediately clear whether the man had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.




    Europe's comet chaser Rosetta concludes 12-year-mission

    By Frank Jordans/Associated Press 2:12pm, September 30, 2016
    The European Space Agency said Friday it has lost contact with its Rosetta probe after it struck the surface of a comet, marking the planned end of a 12-year mission.

    Scientists sent the probe on a collision course with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where Rosetta will rest with its sidekick Philae, which landed on the surface in November 2014.

    Both Rosetta and its lander Philae had gathered a wealth of data about 67P that have already given scientists significant new insights into the origins and nature of comets and the formation of celestial bodies.

    The loss of contact was meant to happen as soon as Rosetta detected a "problem" i.e. the impact. The agency planned to steer the probe toward the comet as slowly as possible so it could carry out a series of pre-programmed commands including taking unprecedented low-altitude images of the comet that could reveal surface features as small as an inch, before colliding with the icy surface.

    Scientists involved in the project said Thursday that--even after Rosetta goes silent--they have decades of work ahead of them analyzing all the data collected during the mission .

    During its final descent the probe will carry out a series of pre-programmed commands including taking unprecedented low-altitude images of the comet that could reveal surface features as small as an inch (2.5 centimeter).


    Mystery at island resort: Why did 2 sisters die?

    By Carla K. Johnson/AP Medical Writ 3:38pm, September 30, 2016
    The Korkki sisters, Annie and Robin/(NBC10, via Chris Korkki)
    Medical experts say the mysterious deaths of two vacationing American sisters in their tropical island villa likely won't be solved until investigators see toxicology test results.

    Hotel staff found 37-year-old Annie Marie Korkki and 42-year-old Robin Marie Korkki motionless in their villa last week at a resort on Seychelles' main island. The bodies showed no visible injuries.

    Autopsies found fluid in the lungs of both women and brain swelling in one. Experts say those are very general findings.

    Bruce Goldberger of the University of Florida College of Medicine says the known facts suggest possibilities ranging from drug overdose to carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Police said the women were seen drinking and were helped to their room by hotel personnel the night before they were found dead.


    BMW issues recall for new Takata air bag problem

    By Associated Press 3:31pm, September 30, 2016
    BMW is recalling 4,000 SUVs in the U.S. and Canada to fix a new and potentially deadly problem with Takata air bag inflators.

    The company says in government documents that the driver's front inflator can separate from a plate, shooting out metal and other debris.

    The companies traced the problem to incorrect welding at a Takata factory in Mexico. It's different from the problem that touched off the largest auto recall in U.S. history. In those vehicles, the ammonium nitrate used to inflate the air bags can degrade over time and blow the inflators apart, spewing shrapnel.

    The recall covers certain BMW X3 and X4 SUVs from the 2015 model year, and X5s from 2014 and 2015.

    Dealers will replace the driver's air bag at no cost starting November 11.


    November court date set in crash that injured Tracy Morgan

    By Associated Press 6:44pm, September 30, 2016
    Tracy Morgan (AP/file)
    Actor Tracy Morgan will head to court in November in a crash that killed his mentor and seriously injured him as as he was en route to a performance at Dover Downs Casino.

    Authorities charged Wal-Mart truck driver Kevin Roper of Georgia with aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

    Investigators said Roper was speeding when he crashed into a limo van carrying Morgan and others on the New Jersey Turnpike. Morgan was injured and his friend and fellow comedian James McNair was killed.

    Morgan reached a settlement with Wal-Mart last year.




    Subaru recalls about 593K cars; wiper motors can overheat

    By Associated Press 6:44pm, September 30, 2016 - Updated 6:47pm, September 30, 2016
    Subaru has recalled nearly 593,000 vehicles, some for a second time, because windshield wiper motors can overheat and increase the risk of a fire.

    The recall affects certain Legacy and Outback cars from the 2010 to 2014 model years. The company said that due to contamination, parts in the wiper motor cover can interfere with one another. If snow or ice stops the wiper arms from stopping in the proper position, the wiper motor could overheat. That could disable the wipers and melt the cover.

    It was unclear whether the problem caused any fires or injuries.

    Dealers will replace the wiper motor bottom cover at no cost, but a schedule for the recall isn't finished. Some of the vehicles were recalled in 2011 for a similar problem.