We have new information in the death of a New Carlisle firefighter.

The LaPorte County Coroner says Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook died from a broken neck suffered when the roof of a building collapsed on him.

Middlebrook's autopsy was performed in Lafayette today and now his body is being transported back to a funeral home on Bendix Drive in South Bend by a police and fire department escort.

Middlebrook was part of several departments battling the massive fire Tuesday night at K-Fex, an excavating and septic business near the St. Joseph and LaPorte County line.

Fire investigators tell us a roof collapsed, trapping three firefighters. One firefighter made it out on his own. Another was rescued with leg injuries.

Officials have now identified the injured man as Matt O'Donnell.

The Assistant State Fire Marshall says O'Donnell has been on the department for three years. He was treated and released for a broken ankle.

But Middlebrook wasn't able to get out.

The New Carlisle Fire Department confirmed his death on their Facebook account Wednesday in a statement that said:

"It is with terrible grief that we confirm the loss of one of our brotherhood. Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook lost his life last night. Please remember our department family, as well as his wife, mother and father. RIP Brother."

LaPorte County Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer tells WSBT the assistant chief’s body was draped with an American flag when crews carried him out of the building where he died.


Multiple fire crews have been on the scene all day today after the fire broke out Tuesday night at K-Fex, an excavating and septic business near the St. Joseph and LaPorte County line.

Right now, state fire investigators are saying at this time they do not have a cause of the fire. We do know that the fallen firefighter was advancing a water hose when he went down.


Susie Buss says she has been a customer of K-Fex Excavating and trucking for 40-years. She says K-Fex employees are mourning such a huge loss.

"Knowing them they are devastated," says Buss. "They are heartbroken and nothing could be worse for them and that's who they are."

The company's website says K-Fex has been in business since 1999 and employs 12 people.

State fire investigators say there are multiple agencies working on determining the cause of the fire. But those in New Carlisle say this is a huge loss.

Buss says K-Fex has built a solid reputation in this small town and hopes this tragedy doesn't change that.

Community support

Several viewers have been sharing their thoughts about the loss of Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook.

And many of you are changing your profile pictures on Facebook in honor of the firefighter brotherhood.

Now, family, fellow firefighters, and the town of New Carlisle are coming together to remember a man who was passionate about his job and helping others.

Other area fire stations are covering for New Carlisle in 12 hour shifts while firefighters grieve their loss.

South Bend Fire Department is providing an ambulance and medics to take medical calls.

A memorial continues to grow around the flag pole outside the station and we’ve seen lots of people dropping off flowers all morning.

And most recently, firefighters raised an American Flag with New Carlisle’s Ladder truck.

One local business called "The Diner" decided to donate 100% of their tips on Wednesday to Ast. Chief Middlebrook's wife, Julie.

"I know money isn't everything and it's not going to fix it or help emotionally but at least we should support in any way we can," said Cathy Jimenez.

A worker for Cathy approached her about donating tips and she thought it was a great idea.

"It's a small community, we all pitch in where we can," said Jimenez.

In three hours, The Diner collected over $1000 in tips for the family.

Who was Asst. Fire Chief Jamie Middlebrook?

The fallen firefighter has been described as a hero and a leader.

WSBT spoke with Jamie Middlebrook's mother today and she says her son was always ready to help.

"There were so many wonderful things about him," Carol Middlebrook says. "He'd been a paramedic so long that many elderly people in town knew him. They would request him by name on medical calls."

Carol says Jamie just celebrated his 41st birthday last weekend and was "always right there ready to help" when someone needed it.

A family friend describes Middlebrook as a leader.

"He was the chief, just like his dad. "They were both leaders," Douglas Dodd says.

A few hours after Middlebrook's death, Dodd and dozens of others started to pay tribute with flowers and monster energy drinks -- for a man so many knew and loved.

"It hurts," says Engineer Jason Hacker with the Clay Fire Territory. "It hurts but that's why we have the brotherhood in order to be shoulders to lean on."

Hacker was one of many off-duty firefighters from area departments who stopped by to show support.

"It makes you think about every day when you go to work," Hacker says. "I go back on duty tomorrow. So you hug your kids, give them a kiss and everything and make sure you get home. That's our main thing besides going out and helping people."

The firefighting brotherhood has a saying, "A good day is when everyone goes home." But tonight, there are questions and heartache for a man who did not come home.

Middlebrook leaves behind his wife, an older brother and his parents.

We’re told Jamie and his wife ran races together and raised money for leukemia research because Jamie himself was a cancer survivor and credits that research with saving his life.

We also know Jamie’s dad was at the fire with him last night. His father is a 41-year veteran on the department.

Governor Mike Pence also issued a statement today regarding the passing of the New Carlisle firefighter:

“I was saddened to learn of the death of New Carlisle Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Middlebrook, who lost his life protecting the safety of Hoosiers. Today, Indiana mourns the loss of a true Hoosier hero. On behalf of the state, the First Lady and I extend our condolences to his family and friends and hold them in prayer during this difficult time.”

Middlebrook had been a firefighter for 20 years.

You can honor Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook on Friday night from your home.

A "Lights On" ceremony will take place. You just turn your porch light on at 9 central time, that's 10 eastern.

Some are also setting up flame-less candles with red ribbons attached in their windows.