Fallen Larimore firefighter remembered as humble hero, honored for saving Casselton after fiery train derailment

A hero. That was the word used over and over again Tuesday at the funeral for a fallen firefighter in a small Grand Forks County community.

Fallen firefighter remembered as humble hero, honored for saving Casselton after fiery train derailment

"There's definitely going to be a big hole in us that can ever be filled again," said Larimore firefighter Shane Rothenberger.

It was a somber day in Larimore as the Larimore Fire Department took one of its own past the fire station one last time.

"It was in him. It was instilled in him," commented Rothenberger.

Hundreds gathered at the baseball field to say goodbye to their hometown hero Geoff Andersen. His casket draped in the quilt his mom made him when he first joined the Bemidji fire department where he grew up.


"His heart was always about being a firefighter," said his mother-in-law Julie Deziel.

The 32-year-old passed away last week from an undiagnosed heart condition. He leaves behind a wife, a two-year-old son, and a community who was like family to him.

"To see the crowd of you here to honor his memory, he surrounded himself with good people," said Geoff's brother Steve.

Geoff was remembered as a family man who was goofy, sarcastic and would give you the shirt off his back, though it would likely be a hoodie.

Since he was a teen, Geoff was always active with his local fire department, often practicing with his cousin.

"I thought it was the coolest thing to be saved time and time again, he was my own person super hero," said cousin Tommy Tolman.

Geoff updated his department photo with Larimore just two days before his passing.


"He was all about helping the community in anyway he could. If he had something going on and somebody needed help he was there," said Rothenberger.

Geoff earned national recognition in 2013.

He was aboard a BNSF train derailed when it collided with another train that had also derailed in Casselton. He was an engineer in training. He quickly changed hats that day.

"Geoff did what Geoff does, put a community he had no affiliation with before himself, grabbing a helmet and coat from the Casselton Fire Department and ran into a fire ball to unhook the rest of the oil cars before they could also explode," said best friend Jimmy Myers.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp honored him on the Senate Floor.

"It was heart was to protect that town and everybody else involved," said Deziel.

BNSF honored Geoff and the rest of his team with the Distinguished Service Award. Geoff would rarely talk about his heroic actions and never discussed them publicly.

"He wanted his legacy to be about his wife, his child and his friends and family," said Deziel.


Geoff's widow was presented with his helmet, and a plastic one for their little son.

A fund to help Geoff's widow and their son has been setup. You can drop it off at any First Community Credit Union at 217 Towner Avenue in Larimore, N.D., In memory of Geoff.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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