By: Brandon Spencer | WCTV Eyewitness
January 15, 2019
The Tallahassee Fire Department says one of the community's "Pink Heals" firetrucks was set on fire around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. (Photo: Tallahassee Fire Department)
Tallahassee, Fla. (WCTV) -- The state fire marshal is investigating a fire that damaged a pink firetruck Tuesday night at Universal Collision Center on Apalachee Parkway.
The truck was dedicated to Ariel Gandy, who passed away from liver cancer in 2012. It was a part of Pink Heals Tallahassee, a non-profit raising money for families battling cancer.
Many people were shocked and very angry after hearing about the charred truck because it was a rolling memorial of hope, as it carried messages and signatures from those battling cancer. No one was more angry than Ariel's father, Frank Gandy.
"I don't even want to go walk out there and see the truck," said Gandy.
He told WCTV that he drove the back way to work in order to avoid seeing the truck dedicated to his daughter because he's just not ready to see it.
"Once the truck was finished.. she was already gone and it was kind of cool... for her name to be on it and people would say that's Ariel's truck," Gandy went on to say.
Ariel's truck was one of two trucks use by Pink Heals Tallahassee to represent hope and celebrate life. Pink Heal's Tallahassee chapter president Sarah Cooksey had a close relation to Ariel and just wanted to do something in her honor.
"My original intentions was to go ahead and build this pink truck behind me in honor of her," said Cooksey. "Well, then she lost her battle with cancer and so it became a memorial of her."
Cooksey is also a firefighter in town. She was one of the first to know about the fire. When she heard that the truck that took hundreds of man hours to restore to form was on fire, she said her stomach sank to the floor.
She goes on to say that the most devastating thing about it was that she can't replace the signatures inside the main cabin, where the fire started. Gandy knows too well about these signatures, as he and other family members wrote their specialized messages for Ariel in the cabin.
"The ones on the inside of the cab, once the truck was finished, that's where I wrote my message to my daughter and her grandmother wrote something in there," said Gandy. "That's gone... I mean we ain't getting that back."
Cooksey and her team, however, are not giving up hope yet and believe that if they could restore it once, then they can restore it again.
"I think that somebody thought they were going to squash something, and in actuality they might have just made it bigger because it just motivated more and more people," Cooksey said.
This group said it is now focused on bringing back that symbol of hope and the ray of sunshine back to the community, just as Ariel did for so many people.
The state marshal is investigating this fire as arson. If you know anything about what happened, you can call them at (850) 413-3603.
For more information about how you can help Pink Heals Tallahassee, you can visit their Facebook page here.
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