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Posted on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Firefighters pay tribute to colleague killed while changing tire along I-696

By Cindy Heflin

Ann Arbor firefirefighter Dan Armitage was a good firefighter and family man and a “great all-around person,” Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard said Thursday.

Armitage, 41, died Thursday when he was struck and killed while changing a tire on Interstate 696 in Farmington Hills, Michigan State Police said.

"Our department is shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Dan’s tragic death," Ann Arbor Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard said in a statement. "As Dan's identity was just recently confirmed, we are still in the process of sharing this news with the rest of the department. This is a very difficult time for us all."


Dan Armitage

Armitage, 41, of West Bloomfield Township was hit by at least three vehicles just after 6:30 a.m., State Police Trooper Paul Shunia told the Detroit Free Press.

Matt Schroeder, president of the Ann Arbor firefighters union, said the news hit fellow firefighters hard Thursday.

"We hired on together in 1995," he said of Armitage. "He was a fantastic professional fireman who loved his family and he did his job well every day, and he's going to be greatly missed by our department. We'll do whatever we can to support the family."

Schroeder said Armitage was a driver at Engine 6 at the Briarwood fire station on Ann Arbor's south side. He was married with young children.

A preliminary investigation indicates Armitage was on the north shoulder of westbound 696 at Farmington Road changing a tire, state police said in a press release.

At some point, he ended up on the ground in the right lane of the freeway and was hit by the vehicles whose drivers were unable to avoid him.

Another vehicle crashed into the median wall, and the driver suffered minor injuries, the release stated.

Armitage is the second Ann Arbor firefighter in six years to die when struck by a vehicle along a freeway. Amy Schnearle-Pennywitt died in January 2006 from injuries suffered when she was struck at an accident scene on I-94 in Ann Arbor by a pickup truck that spun out of control on the icy road. government and politics reporter Ryan J. Stanton contributed to this story.



Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Check the back story!

beau horseman

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

Seriously the people playing the blame game need to stop. A person who risked his life everyday has died. It doesn't matter who is at fault it tragic. May you rest in peace fellow brother.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

Very Sad. Once again a prime example that people do not pay attention while driving. And that they do not give way to the people working on side of the road.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

This gentleman was awesome: Time to get them fire boots out and collect for the family; I will help at a corner... The reason is, I always seen him and his team at Meijer on the Saline Rd. shopping for there shift. I was thinking about a item that was on the top shelf of how I was going to get... So as standing there, out of the blues this guy asked me "if he could help me get something" Knew that god made me much shorter them he was. PLEASE get help from the community for his family. Pay or no pay Dan served the Ann Arbor Community.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Another person killed on a local metro freeway with a disabled auto this morning. Never stop on the freeway and if you do, call a tow truck and either run up the embankment to safety or stay in your vehicle. Never ever try to fix your own vehicle on a freeway. This is NOT blaming the victim, so do not delete. This is a safety warning that will save lives.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

It may have been icy and he could have slipped, or another time, a vehicle changing lanes to avoid a stalled car could spin, ending up anywhere. This points out the risks of stopping on the highway, especially in winter.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

This is so sad, especially for his family. I have often wondered why the shoulders do not have extra wide turn out spots every few hundred feet that can be used as break-down spots. These spots can be on rural highways such as US-23, I-94, or M-14 that have pass thru farmland. They can be off the highway by 10 feet or so, and only need to be 30 feet long. Often the unpaved shoulder is there already, but cannot be used to jack up a car in mud. One can easily drive a few hundred feet to change a tire while the next off-ramp may seem too far. Making the entire shoulder wider is too expensive and still would only place stalled cars another foot or two away from danger.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

These can also be used for police pull-overs, reducing the need for traffic to change lanes, as both vehicles would be well out of danger. This law would still be needed in other circumstances, of course.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 5:26 a.m.

This is certainly a terrible tragedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Armitage's family. Let this be a lesson for all of us that if you experience a flat tire on the expressway, call for road service instead of risking your life trying to change it yourself with cars driving past at 70 plus mph just a couple of feet away from you. I wish the highway dept. would design freeways with wider shoulders so that people will have more distance between themselves and traffic if they have to change a tire.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 4:50 a.m.

I have been in the same position as Dan Armitage on I-696 and have called AAA due to the perceived danger of someone veering too close while attempting to change a tire. A very dangerous situation. We should give thanks to Mr. Armitage's family and all fire fighters for the risks and sacrifices they selflessly make every day to make their respective communities safer places to live. They are true community heroes.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Yes, the horrible sadness of this accident shouldn't deflect the important lesson: Call for a wrecker ..they have emergency lights. So not ever (even in the daylight) attempt to fix your own vehicle along any xway, and certainly not in metro area where the majority of xways are ditches....narrowly dug out for traffic lanes.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:53 a.m.

Please follow up with information about where contributions can be sent for his family. My heart breaks for his children, his wife and the rest of his family and friends.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

I am so sorry.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:10 a.m.

This is so sad Prayers to the victim and his family :( I formerly lived in a major metropolitan area where this kind of accident was a common occurrence. The authorities there started a campaign to warn people NEVER to change a tire on the side of the highway for just this reason. They said that it is more safe to exit the highway, even if it means damaging your rims. You can replace your rims but not your life.

Frustrated in A2

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

I knew FF Armitage and Chief O'Dell. This city really needs some positive news between the police and fire departments.

Stacy Cain

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 9:27 a.m.

I so agree. The public need to step up and show there support for the police fire and ems people in Washtenaw and surrounfing counties. Our community is seeing major cuts from dispatchers to fire, ems, and police....We have lost two very good men is the last two weels and several men and women over the last few years....Scott (Summit township).Amy ( ann arbor fire), Scott and Matt (chelsea police/fire), Bradva9ypis fd) Rick amd the U of M transport crew, a paramedic from hva, jim (jackson pd), greg( ann arbor and emu) and now Dan....all of theIR deaths were tragic and emnormus losses to the comunnity. I knew and worked with most of them and no matter how they the public need to know that they along with all of the other first responders in the counties of Washtenaw and Jackson serve for you the public.....please show them your love and support....they need it daily but even more in times like this after such a great loss and void to the agencies they serve and their families, voted1


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

Do some of you not realize it is impossible to get over during rush hour on 696? Also, there are indications he may have fallen into the right lane. A man vs. a 2500lb vehicle is not going to win, even at a relatively slow 40mph. My condolences to the family.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:41 p.m.

So sad!! I recall speaking with Dan when I worked in radio..always helpful. Tragically, in this stretch of 696, he could have either traveled to M-5 and used those exits (about 3 more miles) or taken 96 to Novi Rd. or 275 to 8 mile (even further). He would have been driving a while on a flat. Very sad people couldn't get over. I believe this is the law for emergency responders and police...why not in this case too, if not?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

The law says that drivers are required to move over a lane, if possible, or slow down - at the very least - when an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road. No matter where I'm driving, I *always* slow down and give a wide berth to bicyclists, pedestrians, and stranded vehicles on the sides of roads. I know I have on occasion angered drivers behind me, but maybe next time you'll do the same thing and SLOW DOWN. Someone's life may depend on it. This is such a sad, sad story. My sincerest condolences to Mr. Armitage's family, friends and co-workers.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

What a tragic loss to his family and to the AAFD.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

Such a tragic loss. Looked like the perfect family guy! RIP... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and our local A2 Firefighters. Rest in Peace. What a beautiful family, I agree, Steve.

Fat Bill

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

For SallyXYZ and anybody else interested, Michigan does indeed have a move-over law. MCL 257.653(a) says that motorists must move over 1 lane or slow down when approaching an emergency or roadside assistance vehicle stopped with it's warning lights activated. This goes for police, fire, EMS, and tow trucks... Unfortunately, in this situation, unless the victim was operating one of the above vehicles with the warning lights on, this law doesn't apply.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

I'm very saddened to hear of Mr. Armitage's passing. I wish his family, friends and co-worker's some peace. We can all remind ourselves that when we see a vehicle pulled to the side we need to slow down and get over a lane. The side of a freeway is a dangerous place for any stopped vehicle.

monroe c

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

I'm having a little trouble understanding how this story is relegated to almost the bottom of the first page. Is a story about a football player driving without a license really that newsworthy? I get that this is Ann Arbor, but, should that story outrank a story about the tragic death of a firefighter? How about the story regarding the opening of a new restaurant in Ypsilanti? Is that more important? Maybe on a slow news day. I know value is very subjective, but what does the placement of this story say about how we think of our first responders?

Momma G

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

My prayers go out to his family. I would like to know why, if he had his hazard lights flashing, why didn't people move over to the next lane. I thought it was a rule in MI to move over for disabled vehicles, emergency vehicles, etc.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

I believe the law states emergency vehicle or police vehicle. I'm not sure it means all vehicles, but it should.

Dominick Lanza

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

During my last weeks at Ann Arbor I went to station 6 and had dinner where I spent sometime speaking one on one with Dan. He glowed when he spoke of his family and took me to his locker to show me their photos. He said &quot;Chief this is what I live for I love my family&quot; they are my world. It was an honor to know Dan and work with him, I am truely saddened to read of his passing may he rest in peace and may god look over his family. My thoughts go out to the fine men and women of the Ann Arbor Fire Department as they have lost a member of their family I know how they hurt. Dominick Lanza Former Fire Chief


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly with Cash. My thoughts and prayers go out to Dan's family and friends.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

Sir, you are a administrator with a heart. Thank you for posting these kind remarks.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

This is so tragic, especially reading on the State news about the man being sentenced for hitting the police officer when he had someone pulled over. Something sticks in my mind that I was once told statistic-wise, that many accidents happen when someone is jogging by the side of the road, walking, riding a bike, well as changing a tire, and the drivers on the road for some reason automatically &quot;weave&quot; towards the object. I don't know why, but I think it holds true. Rest in peace, young man.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

My prayers and condolences to Mr. Armitage's family and the Ann Arbor Fire Department.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

This is truly a heartbreaking incident. If at all possible never, ever attempt a tire change on an interstate......go to the next exit. You may waste a tire but not your life!

hut hut

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

My condolences to the family, friends and brothers in arms. The more I see read and hear about these kinds of incidents, the more I fear stopping on the shoulder of a freeway to do anything, much less get out and tend to a broken vehicle. I am sure this man knew what he was doing and doing it as safely as he could, but many drivers going 70+ mph are often not paying attention to the deadly task at hand.

Michael Armitage

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

Rest in Peace.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Rest in peace, Brother.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

The posted video on has no sound, follow the link to Channel 4. From reports, they think he was on the freeway despite the fact that his car is on the side of the road without nay damage. Something is definitely not right here. What a horrific shame.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

I have sound on the posted video. From what has been said by authorities it seems like nothing more sinister than a very sad tragic accident. Again my heart goes out to those who knew him and lost a friend or relative.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

terrible tragedy that could easily have been avoided. Peopled rive down 696 like they're at the Michigan International Speedway. What a terrible terrible waste of life because of pointless carelessness.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

This seems like speculation to me. Were you there? Have you driven this stretch of road? It is extremely busy. If every time car breaks down on the side of the freeway cars have to move over the number of accidents caused by that would be far greater than this one tragedy. I would say that it is much smarter to use a professional to change a tire on a busy section of freeway instead of saving $50 and risking your life and that of other motorists.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

@kraiford12, you're right. I am confusing the laws. My mistake. I guess i assumed it was common sense for it to apply to all, but it really isn't, if you think about it. Either way, I don't feel my comments are disrespectful to the family (treetown), if anything, justice is most necessary in situations like this.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

@treetowncartel I'm not going to justify or defend my comment because it is simply that, a comment in a comment section of a news story on a news website. This isn't the memorial or service page. No disrespect has been dishes out or spoken here. If anything my comment was an attempt to divert blame being placed (a &quot;rule&quot; on the comment sections).


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Thank you treetowncartel - I was about to say the same thing!!!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

I don't feel this is the appropriate time or place to take the comment section in this direction. I am sure the people driving the cars you are speaking about feel terrible about what happened, not to mention this man's family is grieving. Shame on all of you!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

@Forever27 I think you're confusing/combining construction zone laws and laws concerning stopped public-safety vehicles on express ways. For example, you must move over and give a stopped public-safety vehicle an open lane and if that's not possible you must slow down. And for construction zones with workers present you must slow down to 45mph. As far as I know, and if someone can cite/correct me if I'm wrong, there are no &quot;laws&quot; concerning how to act when a motorist is stopped on the side of the road. And to comment on your comment of &quot; all three should be arrested for vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving...&quot; Like the stories says he may have fallen/stepped into the lane. Should the motorist in the closest lane have moved over or slowed down? Yes, Did they or could they? It's not clear. As to the other two motorists who struck the victim, there is no way of knowing how or what happened after the initial strike, and blindly putting fault on all three motorist is inappropriate at this moment.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

Forever27, the 'slow down or move over ' law only applies to emergency vehicles.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

@craig, i did watch it. I realize the may have fallen into traffic, that's why there are laws that require drivers to slow to 55pmh and get over a lane, if possible. Three cars hitting this guy shows that was clearly not the case here. Therefore, my next logical step is that this is the result of recklessness.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

If you watch the video from the State Police trooper at the 9 second mark he begins to explain that it appears Mr. Armitage may have either stepped in to, or fell in to the right lane of traffic. If that is true you can't blame those who hit him.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

I'd also like to say that all those who are found to have been the ones who hit this victim (three cars! really!) should be arrested for vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

This one is from the Free Press. The channel 4 report is the one I was speaking about. My error.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

You need to remove the link to channel 4 from the article. The reporters words were insensitive and unnecessary. At least Fox 2 didn't try to sensationalize it.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

Agreed. A person lost his life and all the news can report about is the inconvenience and delay to drivers?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

@Craig, Channel 4 wrapped up their report with two commuters complaining about the traffic tie-up this morning. It was very trite and insensitive and should have been left out of the report.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.


monroe c

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

That is heartbreaking. Rest in peace, Mr. Armitage.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

Tears haven't stopped. You'll be missed brother.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

My condolences to the AAFD and his family &amp; friends. What a tragic loss.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

My prayers are out to family and loved ones.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6 p.m.

Rest in peace Dan.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Such a sad incident. Understandably, we don't know all the details...but I do wish that more people made efforts to move over a lane when they see someone on the side of the highway. That means that even if you aren't driving the right lane, you should show courtesy to those who are in the right lane by allowing them to get over when you see a car on the side. Just a friendly suggestion to keep us all safer.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Don't pick apart my statement...just accept that if more people were trying to be courteous and responsible drivers, which is definitely not the case on highways throughout the Ann Arbor to Detroit area, then things like this would be less likely to happen. You must have missed where I said &quot;we don't know all the details&quot;. Obviously better road designs and laws would help but it only works if people want it to.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

It may have been icy and a vehicle changing lanes to avoid a stalled car could spin, ending up anywhere. This points out the risks of stopping on the highway, especially in winter. We need turn out lanes every few hundred feet.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Whole that is great sentiment, have you driven that section of 696? It is quite a busy freeway. There may not have been time or space for a driver to move over a lane. I would also suggest that changing a tire on a busy section of freeway is better left to the professionals. AAA or any other road service is great for this.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe in Michigan there is a law about moving over for emergency vehicles (I think the determining factor is flashing lights). But regardless, it should just be common courtesy to do so.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

It's also illegal to speed, and people still do every day. Tragic accident, but I don't know how much can really be done to avoid things like this in the future.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Some states have laws that cars have to move to the left lane when a car or emergency vehicle is stopped on the right shoulder. Too bad Michigan wasn't one of them.