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Assistant fire chief killed on I-70 remembered as great mentor, friend

Gladney file photo
Columbia Missourian, Jamie Henry-White
Bryant Gladney (far right), Shaun Gladney and Sherril Gladney help check vital signs during a medical check, the third step of deployment for Missouri Task Force 1, early Mar 7. 2013 at the Boone County Fire Protection Distriit Headquarters. (Columbia Missourian)

Memories of putting out grass fires with Bryant Gladney along Interstate 70 were running through Alex Tubbergen-Maglio’s mind all day Wednesday.

It’s the same stretch of highway where Gladney was killed early Wednesday morning after his car was hit by a tractor-trailer.

Gladney was serving in his role as assistant chief of the Boone County Fire Protection District, sitting in his vehicle to direct traffic away from the accident.

“He would always make sure that we were protected from traffic and wouldn’t get hit by cars,” said Tubbergen-Maglio, a former volunteer with the Boone County Fire Protection District. “And that’s what killed him — watching out for other people.”

The tractor-trailer hit the University Hospital ambulance on-site, as well as the truck from the original accident. No other first responders were injured, nor were any people involved in the original accident.

Gladney served as a member of the Fire District for 25 years. He was an original member of Missouri Task Force One and was deployed to New York in the aftermath of 9/11.

Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp said Gladney’s death was the first line-of-duty death for the Fire Protection District.

A ‘24/7 deal’

Blomenkamp said this has been a devastating loss to members of the first response community.

“He was unique in a sense that he cared about people. He took care of the people that he worked with and the people that worked for him,” Blomenkamp said.

Within hours, the Fire Districts’s Facebook post announcing Gladney’s death received over 600 comments and 2,000 shares.

Many of those commenting had changed their profile picture to a memorial photo, which displayed Gladney’s name, title and the years he lived: 1963-2021.

Friends and colleagues remember Gladney as a great leader, and he trained many mid-Missouri first responders.

Gladney was one of Tubbergen-Maglio’s instructors in a paramedic program when he first interviewed with the Fire District.

“He was a very straightforward person, very caring about the community and about people who worked under him,” he said.

Tubbergen-Maglio continued to say Gladney would always go above and beyond for anyone in the community.

“He dedicated his entire life to the Fire District, and, it was, for him, a 24/7 deal.”

Gladney spent his whole career in Boone County. He was a Centralia High School graduate, and Blomenkamp said he first began his work as a volunteer in the area.

His career started in 1986 as a firefighter at Station 1 before he was promoted to lieutenant in 1994. He then became EMS Education Program manager in 2011 and captain in 2015.

Gladney was promoted to Fire District assistant chief in 2020 and began leading the EMS Bureau. Most recently, he started work as the director of the Fire District’s training bureau.

Former Boone County Sheriff Deputy John W. Fields said members of the first-response community are like family to each other. When he heard the news of Gladney’s death, Fields said he broke down and cried.

“I’m a real big guy, but I’m not ashamed of showing that I’m human too,” Fields said. “When we lose somebody in our family like that, it just hurts.”

Among Fields’ memories of Gladney’s intense, diligent work are memories of laughter and humor.

“Being in this line of work, you have to have an outlet, because we see a lot of things that most people will never, ever see,” Fields said. “And we’ll do things that most people will never ever have to do.”

“It takes special people to be able to do this, and we truly lost a great one today.”