Shaun Luke Daniel was a gentle giant with an infectious laugh and an honest soul, according to his family.
And the 26-year-old was finally working his dream job: protecting and preserving Georgia’s forest lands as a ranger.
“You loved with all of your heart and grew into a man that made us all proud,” his aunt, Amy Belflower Brigman, wrote on Facebook.
Daniel was monitoring a contained wildfire in Washington County on Sunday when he suffered an undisclosed medical emergency, according to a news release Tuesday from the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC). He was treated by emergency responders but couldn’t be revived.
Brigman said he collapsed at around 11:30 a.m. while walking a firebreak, a strip of land where trees are typically removed to prevent a fire’s spread. The ranger worked with the forestry unit in Johnson and Washington counties, according to GFC officials, who expressed their shocked at the sudden passing of their co-worker and friend.
“Our hearts are with his family during this devastating time and we’re extending all our support to them and to our GFC family as well,” Director Tim Lowrimore said.
Officials said they are conducting an internal review of the incident.
On social media, Brigman posted dozens of photos of her nephew, who was a graduate of Bleckley County High School, about 120 miles southeast of Atlanta. He had been a member of the school’s marching band.
The photos captured Daniel with friends and family over the years, and many were fittingly taken outdoors. Brigman said he touched the hearts of countless people during his short time on Earth — and made their lives brighter.
“I always called you my Gentle Giant, because you were gentle and tender,” she added. “Your unconditional love that you gave freely will be missed so very badly. I love you, Big Boy, I will always love you.”