• 'Everybody's still in shock': Body of 17-year-old volunteer firefighter escorted to Stanly County

    By: Gina Esposito , Paul Boyd


    STANLY COUNTY, N.C. - The volunteer firefighter who was killed responding to a call has returned home.

    Stanly County residents watched with respect Wednesday as the East Side Volunteer Fire Department escorted the body of 17-year-old Dakota Snavely.

    The young volunteer firefighter was killed Sunday night responding to an active water rescue. A truck overturned in front of his vehicle, which caused him to crash.

    Snavely’s body was escorted 110 miles from Raleigh, where an autopsy was performed, to Albemarle by a dozen fire trucks and first responder vehicles.

    Snavely's public funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Anderson Grove Baptist Church in Albemarle.

    Kim Belcher, a family friend, showed her support for Snavely.

    “Everybody’s still in shock,” Belcher said. “He always made jokes. He was funny. He was dedicated to firefighting with his father.”

    Snavely, who had been with the department for three years, was following in his father’s footsteps.

    The death has brought the tight-knit Stanly County community closer.

    “We’re all just coming together,” family friend Rylie Belcher said.

    “You never thought something like this would happen, but at the same time, he died doing what he loved,” Kim Belcher said.

    The East Side Volunteer Fire Department headquarters is about 40 miles east of Charlotte.

    Fire Chief William Efird said Capt. Jimmy Snavely, Dakota’s father, asked his son to help with a water rescue involving a boat that was sinking at Morrow Mountain State Park around 7 p.m. Sunday. Efird said first responders pulled people safely to shore.

    “Capt. Snavely said come to the call, and of course he did not show up,” Efird said.

    Dakota Snavely (right) with his father Jimmy.
    (Dakota Snavely, at right, with his father Jimmy)

    State troopers said Snavely was driving out of Oakboro on U.S. 205 when a semitrailer carrying live chickens crossed over the line and overturned. Officials said Snavely crashed into the truck and died at the scene.

    Matthew Arrington, the driver of the semitrailer, has been charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

    Investigators said the semitrailer carrying 3,900 chickens swerved into the center of the road on U.S. 205, went off-balance and overturned when Snavely collided with the truck.

    Troopers said Snavely was talking with his stepmother on the cellphone at the time of the crash.

    Efird said Dakota’s death has been hard on the department.

    “He [Dakota] was always here. He... he's just always here. And, uh, I’ve known his dad. He was in my wedding 27 years ago, so I’m very close with his dad. His dad's always here. It’s going to affect my fire department for an extended time.”

    On Monday, a flag at the volunteer fire department was at half-staff, and firefighters were wearing badges with a line through them. Efird said surrounding agencies took their calls as chaplains supported firefighters who lost one of their own in the line of duty.

    “Snavely was certainly one of our very dedicated volunteers,” Efird said.

    The chief said Dakota was often seen wearing his East Side volunteer T-shirt and some of the younger firefighters nicknamed him "Tank." He also said Dakota wanted to be a firefighter like his dad.  

    “Dakota was in the fire department a lot of time before he was in the fire department,” Efird said.

    Efird said somehow, they will get through this.

    “Nobody wants to be in this position, but with that support, I’m going to get through like our fire department will and our fire service will,” said Efird. "We are going to come together as a group to hug each other, cry with each other, and work through this process."

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