'He was a true friend': Community says final goodbyes to Lancaster Co. volunteer firefighter

LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — The Lancaster County community paid tribute to a volunteer firefighter who died while serving his community.

Dennis Straight, 59, was killed when he was struck by a car while directing traffic last week along Highway 521.

In an emotional ceremony Saturday, friends and family members shared some of their fondest memories and gratitude for the impact he had on their life.

A procession for the falling firefighter from Lancaster Funeral Home to Second Baptist Church started the day’s tribute.

A service then followed.

“In the fire service, it's a brotherhood,” said Capt. Ken Walters with the Lancaster Fire Rescue.

Fellow firefighters and emergency responders stood in honor of Straight, who was assistant chief of the Charlotte Road/Van Wyck Fire Department.

"When Dennis arrived on scene, he might be pulling hose, he might be filling the tanker, you might not even know he was there. He was that quiet,” said Fire Chief Butch Ghent, with the McDonald Green Fire Department.

People who knew Straight best described him as “the most introverted extrovert they have ever known.”

"He was a true friend who cared about people whether he knew them or not,” friend Laura Leadford said.

Straight was directing traffic 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 last 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.

Friends and family members continued to celebrate Straight’s life on Saturday at the fire department where he served.

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.

"He was a servant, a servant leader,” Leadford said. “He didn't lead by being flashy. He led by making sure everyone was safe.”

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