Fire truck involved in accident needs replaced

NEW MANCHESTER – New Manchester volunteer firefighters are asking for the county’s help in replacing the pumper truck that was involved in January’s triple-fatality.

The 1997 Spartan Metro Star pumper was northbound on state Route 8 on Jan. 18, responding to a report of a chimney fire, when it was struck by a southbound car carrying three Oak Glen High School students who had just left a basketball game.

All three students – driver Kristyn Butcher, 16, of Newell, and passengers John Emmett Snow III, 16, of New Cumberland, and Kaylin Rice, 16, of Chester – were killed, and two firefighters were injured.

The Butcher car was totaled, while the fire truck sustained serious damage, especially to the front, right front quarter panel and undercarriage, according to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department accident report.

The fire department is down to one pumper and is borrowing another one from the Newell Volunteer Fire Department until it replaces the one damaged in the accident, said assistant fire Chief Chad Lamp, president of the New Manchester VFD.

“We’ve never had to do anything like this before. … We certainly had no intention of replacing that truck,” Lamp said.

The fire department membership decided earlier this week to replace the truck by reusing the body, water tank and water pump and buying a new cab and chassis, Lamp said. The truck is on order from a company in Pennsylvania, but it will take five to six months to do the necessary remounting work, he said.

In the meantime, the fire department is asking Hancock County commissioners for a loan of $50,000 to help pay for the truck. Total cost of the project is expected to be $200,000, Lamp said, noting that a brand new truck would cost the department twice that amount.

Because the New Manchester VFD bought a new tanker truck two years ago, the department is not in the financial position to make another major purchase, Lamp said. In his letter to commissioners, Lamp said replacing the truck without the county’s help would be a “near impossibility.”

On Thursday, commissioners tabled Lamp’s request, referring the matter to Hancock County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Lucas III, chief legal counsel to the county commission.

Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller said he wants to make sure the loan is permitted under West Virginia Code before commissioners act on the request. The commission has loaned money to public service districts in the past but never to a fire department, Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.

The fire department would repay the loan in 10 annual payments of $5,000, Lamp said. The balance of the truck cost would be covered by the insurance settlement and fire department savings.