JEFFERSON CITY — Lt. Bruce Britt, the first Columbia firefighter killed in the line of duty since 1986, was honored by the American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter on Tuesday night.
His wife, Leigh Britt, accepted the 2014 Firefighter Lifesaver Award on his behalf with their 3-year-old daughter Stormy standing alongside her on stage. Leigh Britt spoke of her husband's legacy to the assembled crowd.
"Bruce loved his job," she said. "I'm hopeful, if nothing else, that his sacrifice protected the lives of innocent students and families that use that facility."
After the ceremony, Leigh Britt also said that she and her daughter have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from both strangers and friends since her husband's death.
"One of the positive things that's come from this is all the love that we have for each other, and we've seen that," she said. Fire Chief Charles Witt "was there right by our side for several days after Bruce died, and that was incredible," she said.
Bruce Britt was the last of nine Lifesaver award recipients honored at the Capital West Christian Church Event Center in Jefferson City. He was the first person the organization had honored posthumously, said David Griffith, the organization's executive director.
The crowd, which included five Fire Department officials, including Witt, observed a moment of silence for Britt after the awards presentation.
"It's nice to see organizations recognize the sacrifice that Lt. Britt made. Public safety officials do their job every day, and unfortunately sometimes they don't get to come home," Witt said.
Britt died Feb. 22 from injuries he received while trying to evacuate residents from University Village apartments. Britt was on a second-story balcony walkway at the apartments when it collapsed beneath him.
MU announced March 12 that the University Village would close on June 30 and be demolished shortly after. His family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the UM System Board of Curators later that month that alleged the university acted with negligence when it failed to properly maintain the apartment complex, leading to the conditions that caused Britt's death.
Attorneys for the curators denied the allegations in a response May 12.
Marisa Tesoro contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Edward Hart.
Leigh Britt and her daughter, Stormy, accept the Firefighter Lifesaver Award from the American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter on behalf of her late husband, Lt. Bruce Britt, on Tuesday in Jefferson City. Lt. Bruce Britt died after a walkway collapsed at MU's University Village apartments on February 22. In her acceptance speech, Leigh Britt encouraged all audience members to hold local officials accountable for enforcing building codes. Photo by J. Evan Arnold/Missourian