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Note: The opinions stated in this article are based upon the information contained in the relevant links at the end of this article.

Who is Jeffery Wilkes Bassett?

Author? Actor? Jet-setter? Innocent victim?

On March 21, 2010 at approximately 3:00 pm, Jeffery Wilkes Bassett, 51 and his wife, Cynthia, also 51, happened to be on Highway 221 in McDowell County, North Carolina. One life was lost and the other’s life was changed forever; all because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Firefighter Jeremy Bolick, 23, was driving his Ford Mustang and firefighter Tommy Wright,20, was his passenger. They were returning from training at McDowell Fire and Rescue College.

Junior firefighter Tyler Jordan Vance, 17 at the time, was driving a Chevrolet Camaro with an unnamed passenger on board, who was also a junior firefighter.

From www.findmyaccident.com: “Troopers report the fatal wreck happened while heavy rain was pouring as people left McDowell Fire and Rescue College when a Ford Mustang with the two Blowing Rock volunteer firefighters (Bolick and Wright) aboard and a Chevrolet Camaro with two, 17-year-old Avery County junior firefighters (Vance and passenger) on board began a street race which reached speeds of 95 mph”.

Reports state that the Mustang lost control, spun across a five-lane highway and crashed into a Chrysler 300M, driven by Cynthia Bassett, wife to Jeffery Wilkes Bassett.

Bolick and Wright were killed in the accident and Jeffery Wilkes Bassett died eleven days later of his injuries. Cynthia Bassett was hospitalized at the time of the accident, underwent surgery and was later released.

On Thursday, December 16, 2010, Tyler Jordan Vance was charged in court with one count of misdemeanor death by vehicle and one count of misdemeanor spontaneous speed competition.

According to the USFA, there were 87 firefighter fatalities in 2010.

What I was doing before I was side-tracked was preparing an article completely unrelated to what you are reading.

As I reviewed the USFA data, the two, Blowing Rock, NC firefighter fatalities reminded me of the March, 2010 story of “firefighters racing after fire training”, but I don’t recall much discussion at the time.

Now; I must ask the question: why would a firefighter dying while drag racing, killing his passenger-a fellow firefighter-AND killing an innocent victim and seriously  injuring his wife be considered a firefighter fatality?

For the record, NIOSH has not listed either firefighter fatality as an LODD to date.

I would agree that Firefighter Tommy Wright should be afforded all firefighter honors, because he had no control over Bolick’s car or his driving of the car.

Bolick was violating numerous traffic laws and all common sense at the time of the fatal accident. I am sure that, had Bolick survived, he would have been charged with causing/contributing to the deaths of Tommy Wright and Jeffery Wilkes Bassett and for seriously injuring Cynthia Bassett.

This was a very tragic and very preventable accident of biblical proportions and my sympathies are with all of the families involved.

But,consider this: if we accord honors to the person responsible for this accident, then are we saying that his actions were reasonable and if so, then does it not open an opportunity for survivors to sue the fire departments?

Firefighter Bolick, though a firefighter at the time of his death, should not be considered as a firefighter fatality or LODD, because if he is, then how are we to preserve the significance of the ultimate sacrifice or the sanctity of the fallen firefighter ceremony?

This is not to say that our respective fire departments can’t provide for a firefighter’s funeral.

But, sanity has got to return to how Home Town Hero, PSOBs and LODDs are accorded.

When we, as public servants, through a reckless act seriously injure or kill someone that we have sworn to protect, then where is the honor?

Two, very young and promising firefighters and a wife’s husband are dead.

The truly,sad fact is that they didn’t have to die, if only better decisions had been made on March 21, 2010.

Relevant links:

http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/applications/ffmem/ffmem_results.jsp?p_mn_s...

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/22904368/detail.html

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/23151944/detail.html

http://www.fdnntv.com/Blowing-Rock-Firefighters-Drag-Racing

http://findmyaccident.com/north-carolina/2010/12/27/volunteer-firef...

http://www.mtn18.com/latest_news/2010/12/avery-county-firefighter-c...

TCSS.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper.

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on January 10, 2011 at 8:39am

Tyler Jordan Vance, the other driver involved in this incident is to be in court on Wednesday, Jan. 12th to answer the charges and to enter pleas.

It is my opinion that he should be charged with contributing but not causing the incident.

And if it can be proven that he was at least 20 mph over the speed limit, then he should lose driving privileges for a very long time.

Comment by Ron Ayotte on January 7, 2011 at 12:33pm

Art...we will never know if Tommy Wright had anything to do with the accident.

His FD can give him honors, but in no way was it a LODD.

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