Transportation fills a need in wake of California tragedy

UMA members often offer a helping hand. For companies like Pacific Coachways, that would be a helping motorcoach (or five).

The Southern California-based company recently provided five buses for the funeral of a firefighter slain in its Long Beach, California, community—a 45-year-old father of two who was shot and killed while on a rescue attempt following an explosion and fire at a senior citizen high rise. Ironically, the suspect, prosecutors say, was the man he was attempting to rescue.

The 77-year-old suspect has been accused of several counts of murder as well as arson and explosion with the intent to murder after allegedly setting off an explosive device in an effort to kill a neighbor with whom he was feuding. He shot at rescuers responding to the scene.

The operations manager of Pacific Coachways was a friend of Capt. Dave Rosa, who was killed at the scene. Even without the connection, the company wanted to do something in the wake of a tragedy that rocked the community, said Tom Giddens, company president and active member of UMA and the California Bus Association. The firefighter’s family was looking especially for a way to keep everyone together as they dealt with the logistics of a funeral that drew upwards of 1,000 mourners.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to have everybody together and not worry,” Skinner said, “to get them all there at the same time.

The funeral itself was major news; more than 1,000 mourners showed up, the casket was transported in the back of a fire truck, and a white-gloved rang the final “alarm” in the form of  a bell for the beloved firefighter, coach and family man. The motorcoaches picked up family members at their homes, took them to the funeral, on to the cemetery and back home.

It was an unusual mission for a charter company that more often hauls youth group members of long-distance tour-goers. But it’s not the first time they’ve stepped in during tragedy. .

When a woman was killed in a mass shooting in a beauty salon, Pacific Coachways offered up buses, gratis, to transport mourners while others in the supportive community filled needs for food and other items. They’ve also donated buses for events sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation for wounded soldiers.

While a business can’t donate its services all the time, notes Giddens: “It’s just nice to do something once in awhile. When the need is close by, it’s especially nice to help.”

—Kim Schneider

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