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Wreck kills Onslow firefighter, deputy directing traffic

A deputy and firefighter were directing traffic during a controlled burn on Camp Lejune when a tractor-trailer hit them, officials said.

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Fireman Gene Thomas and Deputy Steve Boehm
VERONA, N.C. — A tractor-trailer struck and killed an Onslow County firefighter and sheriff's deputy while they were directing traffic on U.S. Highway 17 during a controlled burn on Saturday morning.

Deputy Steve Boehm and fireman Gene Thomas, with the Verona Fire Department, died in the wreck, said Capt. Rick Sutherland, of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office.

"(Thomas and Boehm) were killed this morning while fulfilling their call to protect and serve the citizens of Onslow County," Sutherland said in a release. "This loss is a great tragedy for everyone. These men served honorably."

At 4:50 a.m., Camp Lejune authorities called the sheriff's office to ask for  help with traffic on U.S. 17. A controlled burn on the military base had created low visibility on the highway, Sutherland said.

A few minutes later, a wreck occurred in the southbound lanes, and a second wreck took place in the northbound lanes directly across the highway. Boehm responded to the wreck in the southbound lanes, and Deputy Bill Hall and Verona firefighters, including Thomas, responded to the second wreck.

A vehicle traveling in the northbound lanes then sideswiped an emergency vehicle, and Boehm crossed U.S. 17 to assist, Sutherland said.

Hall backed his patrol car farther up U.S. 17 to create a larger buffer for emergency personnel. When Hall got of the car, he saw the headlights of an approaching tractor-trailer.

The tractor-trailer struck and killed Boehm and Thomas, Sutherland said.

Hall was struck by his patrol car and knocked to the side of the road. He was treated and released from New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

U.S. 17 has been reopened after being shut down in both directions for several hours.

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