SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fire Chief Virgil White admitted emotions were high when he heard his firefighters on the radio asking for help due to an accident. The team was enroute to back up another South Charleston Fire Department unit responding to a car wreck Thursday afternoon when they became involved in an accident.
“You never know from call to call what’s going to happen,” White said a day after the fire truck was destroyed in an accident which left one person dead and three firefighters hurt.
“Two of my firefighters have been released from the hospital, but I still have one who’s in ICU and he’s going to have to have some surgery. He’s got quite a few significant injuries,” White added.
Those were the only three on board the truck when it crashed at the intersection of Childress Road and U.S. Route 119 around 4:30 p.m. The truck struck a passenger vehicle which was crossing the intersection.
“The fire truck was travelling north bound running lights and sirens and as they were approaching the intersection he was crossing 119 from Childress Road. The South Charleston fire truck collided with him at the intersection,” said Sgt. Josh Lester of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department.
The driver of the vehicle, Franklin Crouch, 46, of Charleston, was treated at the scene by EMT staff and transported to CAMC where he later died. The names of the three firefighters on the truck were not released. The sheriff’s department accident reconstruction team spent most of Thursday night and Friday morning assessing and taking measurements at the scene to examine the accident for a cause.
“It will take them some time to go back and figure it out, but we do know Mr. Crouch had crossed the intersection and had made it all the way to the north bound lane, that’s when they collided,” said Lester.
White said he got the word the same time everybody else in the department got it.
“We heard them radio for help they were involved in an accident, so immediately we sent people that way,” he explained and admitted it’s a much more intense call when it’s one of your own. “It was because you don’t know what’s going on until you get there. All you get is updates from the dispatchers and you’re trying to picture in your mind what’s going on, but you really don’t know what you have until you can get on the scene and assess it.”
Both the car and the fire truck, a 2018 model, were destroyed. White said the department already had new fire fighting apparatus on order which should arrive over the next 24 months. In the meantime, the city has a spare truck which is in service and will replace the destroyed machine.
It’s the first time a South Charleston firefighting vehicle had been involved in an accident since a call in 2009.
“It wasn’t as bad, but it was pretty significant. We had a structure fire and one of our engines crashed into a police car on the way to the scene,” he added.
According to investigators the fire truck did not roll over, but incurred heavy damage from the collision with the vehicle as well as a nearby light pole as it careened through the intersection after the impact.