CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Members of the Charlotte Road Van Wyck Fire Department in Lancaster are mourning the loss of a 22-year-veteran firefighter.
Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Straight, 59, was killed while directing traffic at the scene of a crash Wednesday night. South Carolina Highway Patrol says the driver of a Chevy Malibu was merging from Highway 521 onto South Carolina Highway 5 when the car hit Straight.
Straight was taken to Spring Memorial Hospital and was pronounced dead.
“There’s nothing that can explain how that feels to a responder or someone who knew him just how quickly things can change,” Fire Marshall Russell Rogers said.
Straight leaves behind a wife. Rogers says he served in every role at the department, even playing Santa Claus during the annual Christmas parade.
“This is a small department, 10 members, so when we have a loss like this of someone who is like a rock is very, very, very tough,” Rogers said.
Rogers says the department has fielded calls from other departments across the state, offering assistance during their time of need. Currently, local firefighters from other departments in the county are covering shifts at the Charlotte Road Van Wyck Fire Department.
Straight’s jacket, boots and fire equipment were laid out in front of the department to honor his life.
Arrangements for Straight have not been finalized.
His fellow firefighters are asking all drivers to pay attention and be cautious if you see flashing lights.
“When we see emergency vehicles slow down, cover the break and be prepared to stop at a moment’s notice,” Rogers said.
South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. It is unclear if the driver of the Chevy Malibu will face any charges.