Local News

Rural Franklin Co. town mourns loss of volunteer firefighter

Posted September 17, 2014

— A black flag flew outside a rural Franklin County fire station Wednesday in memory of a volunteer firefighter killed while rushing to a call.

John Derek Gupton and Kyle Horton were responding to a call about a stove fire Tuesday afternoon when the tanker truck Gupton was driving flipped over on Sykes Road near Seven Paths Road.

Horton was treated for minor injuries and released from a local hospital Tuesday night, but Gupton, 24, died at the scene.

Colleagues at the Justice Rural Volunteer Fire Department, near Louisburg, spent the day trying to come to grips with what happened.

"This isn't an everyday event when a department has to go through something like this," Chief Kelly Harris said. "It's just a nightmare."

Harris said his firefighters are like a close-knit family and that Gupton's death has been like losing a family member.

"We're at a loss for words right now," he said.

Gupton joined the fire department in 2009 after growing up watching both his father and grandfather fight fires.

"He loved the fire department," Harris said.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and Franklin County Sheriff's Office are trying to determine what caused the tanker truck to overturn.

They don't believe speed was a factor, Sheriff Jerry Jones has said.

The truck was carrying 1,800 gallons of water, and investigators are looking at whether the tank was filled to capacity. If not, Jones said, water sloshing around could have contributed to the truck overturning.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • NC_Beach_n_Mtn_guy Sep 18, 2014

    Rest In Peace!

  • Classified Sep 18, 2014

    As a former firefighter I've driven tank trucks and can say they're not a lot of fun to drive when not full.

  • Lightfoot3 Sep 18, 2014

    "water sloshing around could have contributed to the truck overturning" - article

    Wouldn't the tank be equipped with baffles to help minimize sloshing? I wonder if the truck left the road because it was over turning, or it overturned because it left the road (i.e. soft shoulder).

  • kathryn21 Sep 18, 2014

    One story I read the other day said the fire call was a false alarm. Has the story changed?
    And I drive by their station every day...so sad for the Justice community.

  • Chad Overton Sep 18, 2014
    user avatar

    God rest his soul and prayers out to his family and colleagues... This just outlines how much risk these guys take on trying to take care and save / serve others. For all emergency response personnel reading this thanks for all you do...

  • rmsmith Sep 18, 2014

    There indeed was a store fire.

  • Donald Holder Sep 17, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    There probably was a stove fire, what would make you think otherwise?

  • MudLife Sep 17, 2014

    Prayers go out to his family and department family. After working in EMS you become a tight knit family. May he RIP.
    and if there was no stove fire if it was a prank shouldn't the person that called it in be charged with making a false call too 911?