13-mile procession in Clayton honors firefighter who died from COVID-19
Posted September 24, 2020 8:27 p.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2020 12:39 p.m. EDT
Clayton, N.C. — On Monday, hundreds of firefighters and first responders came together to honor Deputy Fire Chief Jason Dean, who died recently after a month-long battle with coronavirus.
"This township will come together and find out how they can help and remedy the situation," said Clayton resident Meredith Monday. "It's a very sad day. He was a young man. Everybody's praying for his family."
A 13-mile procession began at 8:30 a.m. at McLaurin Funeral Home on U.S. 70 Business in Clayton. Traffic will be impacted, particularly on U.S. 70 Business and along N.C. Highway 42.
"Please understand that traffic will be significantly impacted by this procession and the number of trucks coming to town. We expect congestion and delays from 6:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and anticipate the 13-mile funeral procession to take about an hour to pass by," the Town of Clayton posted online.
On Friday in Clayton, a ceremonial siren sounded three times for Dean, a 20-year veteran of the Clayton Fire Department. Town officials said the sound of the siren echoed out for several miles.
The 42-year-old firefighter left a wife and two daughters behind when he died from COVID-19 complications earlier this week.
His wife, Kristy Dean, is a teacher at Clayton High.
"This is a special day for the kids," said her assistant, Stacy Rose. "So we're gonna wave at them and cheer for their kids because we know that everybody loved their dad."
Dean was hospitalized on Aug. 18 and died on Wednesday.
Dean's body was returned to his hometown in Clayton from the hospital on Thursday night.
Firefighters and first responders from different units around the region lined up and saluted the fallen hero on Thursday during a procession. The first responders were seen paying their respects at different overpasses along U.S. 70 on Thursday.
The Clayton Fire Department announced another firefighter who is recovering from COVID-19 is heading to rehab. Clayton Fire Engineer Steve Benson had been in intensive care for several weeks.
Firefighters and other first responders who work closely with the public are especially at risk for COVID-19. In August, the Clayton Fire Department said at least 17 of its firefighters on staff had tested positive for COVID-19.