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Keweenaw Bay Indian Community mourns loss of two firefighters

An Honor Guard accompanied James Shelifoe and Alan Swartz as they returned home to Michigan. Photo by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Michigan is mourning the loss of two young tribal firefighters.

James Shelifoe, Jr. and Alan Swartz, from the Beartown Firefighters, were killed in an accident in Minnesota on August 27. They were on their way to help fight a fire in Utah when they died.

“James and Alan will be remembered for their service and commitment to the Keweenaw Bay community and tribal nations throughout our state and nation,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said in a press release on Tuesday as he ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. “On behalf of all Michiganders, we send our support during this difficult time to their family, friends and community.”

Shelifoe, 23, was a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. He is being laid to rest on Wednesday. He leaves behind a young daughter and a fiance, according to his obituary.

Swartz, 25, is being laid to rest on Thursday. He leaves behind three sons, according to his obituary, and a fiance, who is from the community.

The bodies of the two men returned to the community on Tuesday. They were brought home in a procession from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Baraga, Michigan.

Michael Allen Johnson, 28, another member of the fire crew, has been charged in Minnesota in connection with the accident. He is facing two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide, the Associated Press reported.

Seven other firefighters suffered injuries but are expected to recover, according to the tribe. Another 11 were riding in a different vehicle, or vehicles, at the time of the incident.

Read More on the Story:
Flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of fallen firefighters (ABC 10 8/30)
Bodies of Beartown Firefighters Back Home (WLUC 8/30)
Bodies of 2 firefighters returning to Michigan (AP 8/30)
Driver charged in Minnesota crash that killed 2 firefighters (AP 8/29)
Baraga Co. man arrested in crash that killed two U.P. firefighters (UP Matters 8/29)