An off-duty Los Angeles County Fire Department captain who was killed in a Santa Clarita crash Wednesday morning was a father and grandfather who was getting ready to retire, his brother told KTLA.
Capt. Michael Shepard died after crashing his Jeep into a Caltrans truck that was parked in the center median of the northbound 14 Freeway about 11:20 a.m.
Fellow L.A. County firefighters responded to the crash to find Shepard trapped inside. The extrication was described as "difficult and extensive," but Shepard was declared dead at the scene, officials said.
Shepard, 63, worked at Fire Station 132, just over 8 miles north of the crash scene along Sand Canyon Road.
He leaves behind his wife, six children — four sons and two daughters — and seven grandchildren.
His wife, Cathy, issued a statement through the Fire Department, remembering him as a "dedicated husband, father and fire captain."
“He was the source of love, comfort, protection and joy to the entire family," she wrote. "It is with grieving hearts that we have lost him, but we are forever grateful for each minute we spent with him.”
Shepard was planning on retiring from his post next year, after working his whole life, his brother, Steve Shepard said.
L.A. County fire officials said he had joined the department as a firefighter in 2006 and steadily rose through the ranks.
Shepard's brother described the fire captain as God-loving, hardworking and proud.
“Everyone that knows him says he’s just a nice guy, a good guy," Steve said.
The captain was the oldest brother of three and grew up in the San Fernando Valley. In his free time, he enjoyed spending time with his family, fishing, running, hiking, traveling and working on cars, the department said.
Michael was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army before becoming a firefighter. He was part of the Fire Department's international urban search and rescue task force. He was a technical rescue specialists, who responded to major disasters.
"Everybody’s really saddened by what’s happened," Capt. Bobby Cox said about his colleague, who called Shepard's death "unexpected."
Cox added that the agency got phone calls from fire departments in Vancouver and New York City.
“I think that speaks volumes of what kind of guy Mike was,” Cox said.