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Procession, service honor Fla. flight medic killed in helicopter crash

“Terry loved what he did and he knew the risks, but, he did it anyway,” Battalion Chief Terryson Jackson’s brother, Sergeant Cleavone Brooks said

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By David Goodhue
Miami Herald

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Honor guard members marched solemnly as bagpipes played in Sunrise on Friday morning. It’s a tradition that sadly plays out every time a firefighter dies in the line of duty.

The procession was in honor of Broward Sheriff’s Office Battalion Chief Terryson Jackson, a 50-year-old flight medic who died Aug. 28 when his helicopter ambulance caught fire and fell from the sky and through the roof of a Pompano Beach apartment building.

Jackson was a captain when he died, but Sheriff Gregory Tony posthumously promoted him to battalion chief. Tony said at the ceremony that the promotion was not given simply because Jackson died in the line of duty, but because he would have eventually achieved the rank because of his skills and leadership on the job.

“This promotion was well deserved. It was not a token or trinket of sympathy,” Tony said.

The crash also took the life of Lurean Wheaten, 65, a resident of the building. Four others were injured, including pilot Daron Roche, 37, and paramedic Mikael Chaguaceda, 31.

On Friday, firefighters and Broward sheriff’s deputies in dress white uniforms walked Jackson’s flag-draped coffin through a line of drummers on either side keeping the slow beat to the funeral dirge. They eventually made their way inside the Faith Center at 5555 NW 95th Ave.

“Terry loved what he did and, he knew the risks, but, he did it anyway,” said his brother, BSO Sgt. Cleavone Brooks. “But, before he was a hero to us, he was my big brother.”

Looking around the room and seeing all of his older brother’s colleagues on the fire department, sheriff’s office, members of other departments and agencies, as well as all of the dignitaries in attendance, Brooks said: “Terry knew he was special, but I don’t think he knew he was this special.”

Sanjie Jackson, one of Terryson’s four sisters, called her brother “a rock star.”

“He was the epitome of bravery and he’s a hero in every sense of the word,” Sanjie Jackson said from the alter. “Rest now, my dear brother.”

Oliver Jackson, Terryson’s father, told the audience that his son was dedicated to serving the community and devoted to his family, including his young daughter, his brothers and sisters, and his mother, Dorothy.

“I remember my son as a tremendous man, as a great man,” Oliver said.

Darren Bennett, pastor of Calvary Chapel North Miami, led the service. His brother, BSO Deputy Shannon Bennett, died in 2020, the first Florida police officer to die from COVID-19. Bennett said that he didn’t know what to say to Terryson’s parents because he couldn’t fathom the pain of losing a child.

So Bennett said he called his mother and asked her what he should say. Her answer:

“You both were used by God to create a hero that God used for his glory and the good of mankind.”

A Fire-Rescue chaplain then rang the ceremonial bell, as is tradition when a firefighter dies.

Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace,” as the honor guard removed the American flag from Jackson’s coffin and folded it.

Honor guard members handed the flag, folded into a triangle, to Fire-Rescue Chief Timothy Keefe, who marched it over to Sheriff Tony.

Tony knelt on one knee and handed the flag to Jackson’s mother, hugged her, then stood and saluted her.

“This is your last alarm,” the chaplain said. “You’re going home.”

Jackson began his career with Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue in March 2004, according to BSO. That department merged with BSO Fire-Rescue, and Jackson became a lieutenant in October 2011. He joined the elite Air Rescue 85 in March 2013, and was promoted to captain in February 2016, according to BSO.

After the tragedy, the Broward County Commission approved $15 million to replace the Airbus EC 135T-1 helicopter that crashed.

Tony assured those in attendance that not only would the aviation unit continue, it “will have his name on it,” referring to Jackson.

Tony addressed the grieving members of the aviation unit, praising their performance the day of the crash and since.

“You have done stellar. You have been outstanding for this community, this agency, and you’ve been outstanding for Terryson,” Tony said.

Tony also singled out the Daron Roche, the pilot — telling him there was nothing he could have done differently that day to change the outcome. He was in the audience, and stood when asked by the sheriff. Shaking and crying, members of Jackson’s family walked up to him and hugged him.

“You did every single possible thing you could do against impossible odds,” Tony said. “You performed exceptionally well.”

©2023 Miami Herald.
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