“Hero Firefighter Loses Lifelong Battle With Fire” was the headline on this particular faux news item, and pictured therein was Lt. Frank Castillo, 46, of the Des Moines Fire Department, who had “finally succumbed to the combustion he had so bravely battled through most of his adult life.”
The Onion ran this piece in September 2006. Playing the role of Lt. Frank Castillo was Captain Rudy Lindia, a real-life firefighter from Ottawa, who, once he discovered the picture, didn’t think it was all that funny:
“We feel really crummy about it and we apologize to the firefighter in question,” said Chet Clem, a spokesman for the website. “But at the same time, we subscribe to a number of photo services and we have to trust that the images we buy from these photo sites are properly licensed.”
The stock-photo service used by The Onion said they had proper releases for use of the picture; Capt. Lindia says that he assumed the photo was intended only for use by the city of Ottawa.