LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. - The Lancaster County community is grieving after a firefighter was hit by a vehicle and killed Wednesday night while directing traffic following a wreck, officials said.
The assistant chief of the Charlotte Road/Van Wyck Fire Department, 59-year-old Dennis Straight, was directing traffic around 7 p.m. at an accident scene at the on-ramp to Highway 5 from the northbound lane of Highway 521 when the collision happened.
Authorities said a driver merging from Highway 521 onto Highway 5 hit Straight, who was rushed to Springs Memorial Hospital, where he died.
A 33-year-old male driver from Kershaw stopped at the scene. He has not been charged.
Friends told Channel 9 that Straight, a veteran firefighter, was a quiet, selfless leader who loved to help people.
Straight's jacket, boots and helmet were placed on a fire engine Thursday as a memorial.
"He wasn't out in the front. He was just always there,” Lancaster County Fire Marshal Russell Rogers said. “He was just always there in the backdrop and was just there for everybody."
Straight served as a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years. He was described as a great man who was dedicated to the people of Lancaster County.
A vase of flowers has been placed on one of the fire engines at the Charlotte Road Van Wyck Fire Department in his honor. Firefighters from Indian Land and Pleasant Valley were handling calls and covering for Van Wyck on Thursday.
"This was his volunteer passion. He loved serving the community,” Rogers said.
The crash remains under investigation.
Channel 9 reporter Greg Suskin interviewed Straight in 2007 when he was fire chief and his department worked a huge fire at a cabinet shop.
Straight leaves behind a wife and many friends, both inside and outside the fire service.
"There's just nothing that can explain how that feels to a responder or someone that knew him,” Rogers said. “We have spoken to his wife and certainly are with her and trying to offer her comfort."
Straight was also known for riding atop one of the fire engines, playing Santa Claus, in the Christmas parade.
Plans for a memorial service are being finalized.
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