Assistant Fire Chief Drowns After Being Ejected from Boat During Rescue Mission: 'Died a Hero'

Matthew Tobben was found dead on the morning of July 8 just hours after he was thrown from the vessel he was in, according to authorities

<p>Boone County Fire District/X</p> Matthew Tobben

Boone County Fire District/X

Matthew Tobben

An assistant fire chief from Missouri died after he was ejected from a boat while conducting a rescue mission.

The Boone County Fire Protection District announced the death of Assistant Chief Matthew Tobben on July 8, just hours after the fatal incident occurred.

Fire Chief Scott Olsen said Tobben was assisting with “a swift water rescue operation” at Rangeline Street and Bear Creek early that morning when the boat overturned and he “was thrown from” the vessel, authorities said.

The group was returning to shore around 4:15 a.m. local time when the boat lost engine power and began drifting away in the current, according to a drowning report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The boat then apparently became “swamped with water,” causing the occupants to be ejected.

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A Columbia Firefighter and the two victims who were originally rescued were also on the boat, according to Olsen. They were rescued and are now “doing ok.”

Tobben, 42, was found dead “a short distance from the vessel” just before 9 a.m., per the MSHP drowning report.

BCFPD Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp said Tobben was thrown a tow line, which the firefighter attempted to grab, according to ABC affiliate KMIZ.

Both Tobben and the fourth individual, described by KMIZ as a Columbia firefighter, were reportedly wearing safety devices when the fatal incident occurred, per the drowning report.

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However, KMIZ reported Tobben’s life jacket and helmet came off at some point before his body was found.

“Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time,” Olsen said in his statement.

"Firefighters regularly risk their lives to save others. Tragically, sometimes it costs them their lives," the Missouri Division of Fire Safety wrote in a separate post. "Assistant Chief Matt Tobben died a hero this morning as he made the ultimate sacrifice attempting a rescue in treacherous floodwater."

<p>Boone County Fire District/X</p> Matthew Tobben

Boone County Fire District/X

Matthew Tobben

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Tobben was the fire department’s Director of Training, a role he started on May 1, according to KMIZ.

He was remembered as a man who would “do anything for you” if he could, Blomenkamp told the outlet, which reported he leaves behind a wife and two children.

“All you had to do was ask and he was always willing to help,” added assistant chief. “He never turned down the opportunity to run that call, to make that rescue, to be involved.”

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