LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. - Rocky Hudson had trouble containing his emotions speaking about his longtime friend and fellow volunteer firefighter, Danny Deese.
"We're just in shock. Danny was a big part of our department," Hudson said.
It was still dark Monday morning when Deese, 60, was driving on Duckwood Road east of Lancaster near Highway 903. It was also foggy and raining. He hit floodwaters that were over the road and the shoulder of the road collapsed.
His pickup ended up almost 100 yards off the road down an embankment. His body was found even farther down the rushing creek.
Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder was on the scene all morning.
"When it's one of our own it's a little tougher, a littler rawer, for us," he said. "We just rely on our training."
Officials told Channel 9 that Deese made the 911 call himself, but they have not yet released the recordings pending the investigation.
It was a Lancaster County sheriff's deputy who responded to Deese's 911 call and drove to the scene in the foggy darkness. He spotted the caved-in shoulder, then the mangled pickup. He found Deese's body a few minutes later.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the incident, and it's not clear yet if Deese got out of his truck, or was swept off the road inside it, then managed to get out afterwards.
Tony Clyburn runs a trucking company. He called the Department of Transportation about the washed-out road Monday morning after two of the trucks in his company were almost stranded just before the deadly accident. He said one driver couldn't see the water and slid across the road.
"He couldn't stop. He didn't see it (the water) until he got right here," Clyburn said. "that's awful."
People who live in the area had to turn around because dot shut down the road. Bub Faile was one of them. He saw the emergency vehicles, and was saddened to learn what had happened.
"I feel grief for him. I wouldn't want it to be my family, ya know," he said.
Martha Haywood lives on Duckwood Road, just down from the swollen creek. She said the road has been damaged by heavy rain in the past.
"It’s terrible. Terrible. This didn't have to happen," she said.
Hudson told reporters that Deese was a 21-year-old veteran of the Buford Fire Department. His son serves with the Lancaster City Fire Department and he comes from a family that loves their community.
"He's a kind man, a Christian man who loved his family, loved the Buford Fire Department and the Buford community," hudson said.
State troopers told Channel 9 they won't release information on the wreck until the cause of death is released after an autopsy Tuesday. Once the cause of death is revealed, that will determine the direction of the investigation.
As of late Monday, Deese's pickup truck was still down the embankment. It's in an area that was difficult for tow trucks to reach.
SCDOT planned to shut down Duckwood Road for several days to repair the damaged shoulder.
Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com:
- Troopers: Man dies after getting out of car on flooded road
- Friends tried to save 8-year-old who drowned after falling through ice-covered pond
- Maserati carjacked from strip club found crashed, abandoned
- NC group plans to file ethics complaint against McCrory
- Troopers: 1 rescued after driving car into Stanly Co. creek