Northwest of the Charlotte metro area is where you will find the small town of Drexel in Burke County. After a recent storm in the area, a pair of firefighters were helping clean up debris from Highway 70.
The firefighters were wearing safety vests and turnout gear and their vehicle’s emergency lights were on. So were the lights on a patrol car. The flashing lights and safety gear were not enough for the driver of a pick-up truck headed east on the highway around midnight. According to law enforcement officers, the driver — allegedly drunk at the time — struck one of the firefighters and killed him on impact.
“He should have seen the lights and the visibility is probably a thousand feet. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have been able to get stopped,” a North Carolina Highway Patrolman said of the pick-up driver.
The Highway Patrol says it is waiting for results of a blood test taken that night. The driver has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and felony death by motor vehicle.
The fallen firefighter was 40 years old; his 16-year-old son is a volunteer with the department. Their gear hangs side by side at the station, firefighters said.
The allegedly drunken driver later told a TV reporter that he had been “going home to go to sleep” at the time of the fatal crash. He claimed that he was not high when his truck struck the firefighter.
Police found marijuana inside his vehicle and suspect that he was drunk when he failed to see the flashing lights and firefighters working on the road in safety gear.
We wish the best for the firefighter’s family in this terrible time of loss and grief.
Tragedies caused by drunken driving are entirely preventable.Hopefully, the story of this first responder will serve as a lesson and at least one person will choose not to get behind the wheel when they are impaired.