Local News

Hundreds gather to remember fallen firefighter

Posted September 21, 2014 6:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2014 10:06 p.m. EDT

— Firefighters from across the country were among hundreds gathered at Duke Memorial Baptist Church in Spring Hope on Sunday to say their final goodbyes to John Derek Gupton.

Gupton, a firefighter with the Justice Rural Volunteer Fire Department, was driving a tanker truck in route to a fire alarm call on Tuesday when the vehicle overturned on a slight curve on Sykes Road near Louisburg and hit a culvert.

The truck was carrying 2,500 gallons of water. The cab Gupton and Kyle Horton were in was flattened by the impact.

Horton was treated and released from a hospital. The wreck is under investigation.

Dian Murphy, who was close to Gupton, became choked up while talking about his friend.

“He was a very caring individual,” he said. “He could brighten up the darkest days just by hanging out with you. There wasn’t nothing he wouldn’t do for you.”

Murphy remembers a moment when he and Gupton accidentally dropped and scattered a bail of corn stalk.

"And he looked at me and he goes 'You know, it's mighty hot out here today,'" he said. "I said 'Yeah, but it ain't hot enough, it's about to get a whole lot hotter. Go find you a pitch fork.'"

Firefighters who attended Gupton’s funeral said regardless of the distance, his death is like losing one of their own.

“A lot of people don't understand the brotherhood that fire departments have, but we're there for each other at all times,” said Capt. Wayne Burnette with the Watkins Fire Department, located in Vance County.

Franklin County Sheriff Jerry Jones said it was one of the saddest days the community has seen in a long time.

"The young life that we lost and all the potential that he had, it's just hard to even stand here today to stand in front of the church and funeral with a dry eye," he said.