‘Getting through it together:’ Visitation held for fire chief

Comstock Township's Ed Switalski hit by car and killed while responding to call

Comstock Township Department of Fire & Rescue Chief Ed Switalski
An undated courtesy photo of Comstock Township Department of Fire & Rescue Chief Ed Switalski.

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Family, friends and colleagues gathered Tuesday to pay their respects to late Comstock Township Fire Chief Ed Switalski.

Switalski was hit and killed by a passing vehicle last week as he prepared to leave the scene of a reported crash on eastbound I-94 near mile marker 81. It’s unclear if the driver, a Battle Creek-area man, has been charged in connection to the incident.

A tarp covers the wreckage of a vehicle that hit and killed Comstock Township Fire Chief ., whose vehicle was also in the impound (left).

After serving more than 30 years at Pleasantview Fire District in Illinois, Switalski moved to West Michigan in 2013 to be closer to his daughters, who were attending Western Michigan University. He was sworn in as chief on July 1, 2013.

“There’s going to be a lot of people (at funeral services) because Ed touched a lot of guys,” said Rick Ronovsky, a retired fire chief from Hinsdale, Ill.

He and a few other firefighters from his former department made the drive from Illinois for public visitation on Tuesday.

“He was a great guy, loved the fire service, and it’s just tragic,” Ronovsky said.

Switalski leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

“I’m so impressed with this family,” Oshtemo Fire Chief Mark Barnes said. “They’ve held up exceedingly well.”

>>Online:Chief Edward Switalski Memorial Fund

The public visitation for Comstock Township Department of Fire & Rescue Chief Ed Switalski at the Langeland Family Funeral Homes in Oshtemo Township on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Switalski leaves behind a much larger family, too: Brothers and sisters who worked with him throughout his fire career.

“We’re here for the family, my fire family and his family, and we’re getting through it together,” Comstock Fire & Rescue Capt. Kevin Thompson said.

Though Switalski’s sudden death is too difficult for some to fully process right now, some who came to the visitation couldn’t help but smile when remembering Switalski.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of stories about Ed in his younger years,” Thompson said. “Here in southwest Michigan, we’ve only had him for the last few years, but we’ve heard a lot more stories about the other Ed from Illinois, as we like to say.”

“If there’s any consolation, he passed doing what he loved to do,” Ronovsky said.

Public visitation was held Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Langeland Family Funeral Homes, located at 3926 S. 9th St. in Oshtemo Township.

Chief Barnes expected about 400 firefighters will help coordinate the funeral procession, beginning at 9 a.m. The procession will travel from Langeland Family Funeral Homes to Wings Event Center. Community members may line the procession route to honor Switalski.

The procession will take the following route:

A map provided by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety shows the staging area and procession route for Ed Switalski’s funeral.
  • Northbound 9th Street from O Avenue to Stadium Drive.
  • Eastbound Stadium Dr to eastbound Michigan Ave.
  • Eastbound Michigan Ave to northbound Riverview.
  • Northbound Riverview to eastbound Gull Rd (M-43).
  • Eastbound Gull Rd (M-43) to eastbound H Ave.
  • Eastbound H Ave to southbound S 33rd St.
  • Southbound S 33rd St to westbound E Michigan (M-96).
  • Westbound E Michigan (M-96) to westbound Kings Hwy (M-96).
  • Westbound Kings Hwy to southbound River.
  • Southbound River to westbound E ML Ave.
  • Westbound E ML Ave to southbound S Sprinkle.
  • Southbound S Sprinkle to westbound Vanrick.

Drivers are asked to avoid these roads during the procession. The following off-ramps will also be closed for as long as two hours:

  • I-94 east and westbound off-ramps at S 9th St, exit 72.
  • US-131 north and southbound off-ramps at Stadium Dr, exit 36.
  • I-94 business loop west bound off-ramp closed at exit 81.
  • I-94 east and westbound off-ramp at Sprinkle Rd, exit 80.

Doors open at 10 a.m. on Wednesday to the Wings Event Center and the funeral services will start around noon. Those who cannot attend can watch Switalski’s funeral live on WXSP and woodtv.com.

Township offices were closed Tuesday afternoon and will remain closed all day Wednesday during Switalski’s visitation and funeral services.

Gov. Rick Snyder has also ordered all U.S. and Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff Wednesday in honor of Switalski.