In Memoriam – Alicia Anne Monahan

Alicia Anne Monahan

The entire Rescue 3 International community is in mourning as the result of the untimely passing of rescue instructor Alicia Anne Monahan who died while co-instructing a swiftwater rescue course in North Carolina. As we express our sincerest condolences to her family, friends, and the entire rescue community during this painful time, we too seek hope and comfort in the memories we have of Alicia and her selfless devotion to others.   Alicia was a dedicated and experienced instructor who had participated in, and provided instruction for, many training courses in this same section of the Nantahala River. While the investigation is still ongoing, eyewitness reports indicate Alicia may have experienced an acute medical event as she was demonstrating a routine cross channel swim to her students. At this time, no other environmental, performance, or behavioral contributing factors have been identified.

Alicia was an 11-year veteran of Chesterfield County Fire and EMS; K-9 Handler, Search Team Leader with Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association; member of VA-HART; Ambassador with shejumps.org; mother of two; and engaged to her long time partner Bryan Saunders.  She possessed all of the passion, courage, and attributes that make our professionals great at what they do. She leaves her professional mark on us all due to her constant pursuit and adherence to the highest of standards and expectations.

Our team and the whole rescue community are committed to providing steadfast support to Alicia’s fiancée and her two sons. Chesterfield Fire and EMS created a charitable foundation many years ago to help their firefighters and families who are dealing with a crisis. This foundation has shared the following message as they seek donations that will directly benefit Alicia’s two sons:

“Donations can be made directly on the CPFFCF website at cpffcf.org, or checks can be mailed to Chesterfield Professional Firefighters Charitable Foundation, P. O. Box 812, Chesterfield, VA 23832. Please write in the Special Instructions Section, “Alicia Monahan.” One hundred percent of these donations will go directly to the benefit of her sons. Donations may also be dropped off at any Chesterfield Fire and EMS station.”

When a loss like this hits our small band of rescuers, we can only take heart that her legacy carries on in the teammates she served with and those that she taught and mentored.

Our commitment to the rescue community is rooted in service to the dedicated and selfless character embodied by Alicia and those she inspired.


More About Alicia

She was an experienced member of the department’s SCUBA Rescue Team and a member of the elite Virginia Helicopter Aquatics Rescue Team (VA HART), a joint initiative between the Virginia Army Air National Guard and Chesterfield County Fire & EMS.

In recent years she actively prepared for greater leadership responsibilities, completing a long-term acting lieutenant assignment at the Bon Air Fire Station, and was a candidate for promotion to the rank of lieutenant.

During her tenure with the department, she was honored with numerous citations and awards.

In May 2013, Alicia was part of a team that safely extricated multiple victims from a crash involving three vehicles.

In November 2013, she and her teammates acted quickly and decisively to remove multiple victims from a vehicle that was fully involved in fire following a head-on collision with another vehicle.

Alicia participated in life saves in April 2018 and January 2020, performing advanced medical care on patients experiencing cardiac arrest.

In October 2018, she and two other members of Scuba Rescue 7 rescued a victim trapped on the roof of their car in rising, swiftly moving flood waters. They each were recognized with a Bronze Valor Award for their efforts by the Retail Merchants Association.

A 2004 Radford University graduate, Alicia was a licensed dog trainer who served as an operational K9 handler for the Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association.

She shared her love of the outdoors as Southeast Region Event Coordinator for SheJumps, a nonprofit that aims to increase the participation of women and girls in a variety of outdoor activities.

She was an Auxiliary Instructor for the US Naval Sea Cadets Program and supported Race Across America and Race Across the West as a driver and paramedic.

She worked as a whitewater raft guide for RVA Paddlesports and Riverside Outfitters, and as an instructor in search and rescue with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Alicia was also an active swift water rescue instructor teaching multiple classes during her off-duty time across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia as a valued instructor with Rescue 3 International, a global organization that provides technical rescue training.

On Saturday afternoon she was working with Rescue 3 International doing what she loved, training a group of fire and EMS professionals in the complexities of swift water rescue techniques.

The training session was being conducted on the Nantahala River outside Bryson City, North Carolina; an area that was very familiar to Alicia.

After conducting a safety briefing with the students she entered the water wearing full protective equipment and for reasons still unknown, became unresponsive. She was carried a short distance downstream by currents where she was removed from the river by individuals nearby who began resuscitation efforts. Despite the valiant efforts of those on scene, along with first responders and hospital staff, Alicia was pronounced dead a short time later at Swain Community Hospital in Bryson City.

According to Chesterfield County Fire & EMS Chief Loy Senter, “Alicia’s untimely passing weighs heavy on our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her fiancé, her two sons, extended family, and many friends. Her coworkers continue to support the needs of the family while at the same time providing uninterrupted emergency services to the community Alicia loved and where she grew up and lived. While she will always be remembered for her devotion to duty and unparalleled service to others, her legacy will be the inspiration she provided to countless young women considering careers in the fire service or the pursuit of causes bigger than themselves.”