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Night of celebration ends in tragedy for two firefighters

October 28, 1997

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Outside, it was quiet and rainy. Inside, the firehouse was full of life.

Members of D Platoon of Engine Co. 63 gathered around the television to watch the Eagles pull out a last-second win over the Cowboys. Later, they switched to the World Series.

But first there was some celebrating to do.

Rookie James E. Hynes had been on the job for six months and, keeping with department tradition, he had cooked dinner.

Less than 12 hours later, he and the shift commander, Lt. Terry McElveen, were dead just blocks away.

The firefighters, called to a house because of fallen electrical wires, died after noticing a small fire in the basement, entering and taking off their breathing masks.

The bodies of McElveen, 43, and Hynes, 27, were found on the first floor near a door to the basement, which was littered with debris. Monday night, the coroner’s office said they died of smoke inhalation.

``Something went terribly wrong here, and we just don’t know what,″ Fire Commissioner Harold Hairston said.

The men were the first firefighters to die in the line of duty since 1994, when two firefighters were killed in a blaze at a church.

McElveen, who is survived by a wife and two daughters, joined the department in 1976. Hynes, who is survived by his parents, joined the department in December 1996.

Funeral plans for both were incomplete Monday.

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