BURKE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The man who is accused of striking and killing a volunteer firefighter from the Triple Community Fire Department in Burke County Sunday night had his first court appearance Wednesday.
According to a spokesperson with the fire department, firefighters were dispatched to a tree that was blocking the eastbound and westbound lanes of Highway 70 East near the Drexel intersection just before midnight Sunday.
Fire Marshall Mike Willis says a truck, driven by 58-year-old Randall Stewart, hit Jason Keith Hensley, Hensley's vehicle and then the firetruck. The 40-year-old firefighter was killed "instantly upon impact."
Officials say Hensley and another firefighter were wearing reflective vests and standing next to vehicles, including a firetruck, that had emergency lights flashing.
Stewart was charged with felony death by vehicle, which is in addition to his other charges of driving while impaired, reckless driving and possession of marijuana.
Stewart's bond was tripled to $75,000 and he requested for a court-appointed attorney Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Stewart told WBTV when asked about the wreck, "It was not my fault."
Stewart claims he was tired and heading home to go to sleep. He said that while he did see the lights of the emergency vehicles, he did not see Hensley. When asked if he was high on drugs at the time, Stewart said no. "I wasn't high, I don't have a problem with drugs," he said.
Moments later, Stewart said, "I haven't been high in days."
When asked again about Sunday - when the accident happened - Stewart admitted, "Earlier in the day I smoked a joint."
Hensley's procession was held Tuesday along the overpasses on Interstate 40. Fire trucks gathered to pay respects and people held their hand to their heart in a salute to the fallen firefighter.
Hensley's mother watched from the Exit 119 overpass as friends hugged her.
Preparations are underway for the funeral of the firefighter. His funeral will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Drexel at 200 South Main Street.
The burial is scheduled to be at Hillcrest Cemetery at 1121 Praley Street SW in Valdese, NC.
If you would like to make donations for the Jason Hensley Memorial Fund, you can make checks payable to Triple Community Fireman's Fund.