EBENSBURG - A Cambria Township couple was left mourning Monday, after their son, an Air Force airman, died while training in Japan.
Airman 1st Class Derek Kozorosky, 22, the son of David and Lisa Kozorosky, died in a vehicle incident Friday evening at an 18th Civil Engineer Squadron fire station, U.S. Air Force officials said.
Lisa Kozorosky said the young airman, who was a 2007 Bishop Carroll graduate, was accidentally killed during a fire training exercise on the Kadena Air Base. He has a younger sister, Mikayla.
"He was doing what he always wanted to be - a firefighter," said Kozorosky, a Cambria County deputy treasurer, adding her son was a recent Department of Defense fire school graduate who finished at the top of his class. "He was such a great son."
Air Force Maj. Chris Anderson, an 18th Wing public affairs spokesman, said Derek Kozorosky was taken to the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, Camp Lester, where he died from unspecified injuries.
The incident itself remains under investigation. Anderson said no others were injured and alcohol was not involved.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a valued member of Team Kadena," Brig. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, 18th Wing commander, said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Derek's family, friends and co-workers during this difficult time."
Lisa Kozorosky said friends and colleagues have been reaching out to the family since Friday, sending e-mails describing her son as "one in a million" and "awesome friend."
Cecilia Houser, Bishop Carroll's development and public relations director, said the school is mourning his death.
"The entire Bishop Carroll Catholic High School family is deeply saddened by the loss of Derek Kozorosky, Class of 2007," Houser said. "We send our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Derek at this difficult time."
"He was a wonderful young man who touched many lives in his young and entirely too short life. We thank him for his service to our country and keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers. He will be greatly missed."
Kozorosky served alongside 74 men in his squadron and all of them volunteered to bring him home, his mother said, but she added that will have to wait.
She said the Askew-Houser Funeral Home, Ebensburg, will handle his arrangements, but his body will not be returned to the states until the investigation is complete.
Because he died while on duty, her son will receive full military rites, she noted.
While noting she was still "heartbroken" by the news, she has taken some comfort in a tattoo her son got when he first arrived in Japan a year ago.
Although she wasn't happy about the tattoo at first, she said the message "Forever Grateful" soon sunk in.
"That was Derek. He loved his family and he appreciated his life," she said. "And he wanted to make sure we knew that."