Local News

Firefighter dies week after school bus crash

Posted December 11, 2009 1:24 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2009 6:04 p.m. EST

— A Raleigh firefighter injured in a chain-reaction wreck last week has died.

Lt. Harry P. "Flip" Kissinger IV, 35, of Wake Forest, died Friday afternoon at WakeMed, Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Styons said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

A lieutenant at Fire Station 6 in Raleigh, Kissinger was driving home from work early on the morning of Dec. 4 when a school bus struck the pickup truck he was driving. The bus crashed into a ditch with the cab of the truck crushed beneath it.

He suffered numerous injuries, including severe head trauma.

Kissinger was with the Raleigh Fire Department for 12 years and had been working to make captain's rank.

"Flip was one of those quintessential firefighters – young, handsome, strong, beloved by all, a bit of a jokester and a prankster," Styons said. "He was truly the kind of guy that makes it fun to come to work."

Fellow firefighters kept vigil over the past week at the hospital, rotating in and out to be there for their colleague. Styons called Kissinger's death a tremendous loss for the department, saying they consider themselves family.

"It's a sad day," he said. "We're supposed to be a pretty tough bunch – and day in and day out, we are – but there's been a lot of tears shed today."

David Sims, pastor of Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest, where Kissinger, his wife and two young daughters attended, wrote on the church Web site that he was "one of those guys that loved everyone and helped everyone."

"And in turn, everyone loved Flip. He loved his family, his fellow firefighters, his friends and his church," he continued. "Flip loved the Lord and was a man of faith. And so our temporary loss becomes heaven's great gain."

Hundreds of people also posted messages Friday afternoon on a Facebook page set up for the public to send well wishes and to offer prayers.

"Heaven has just received such a precious angel," one person wrote. "I am praying for peace for your family."

"We will miss you, pal," another wrote.

A fund has been established in Kissinger's name to help care for his family, according to a city-issued news release Friday. Donations to the "Kissinger Family Care Fund" can be made at any First Citizens Bank.

Charges are still pending in the wreck.

The state Highway Patrol said Tuesday that the bus driver, Sheila Wimbush Hall, 52, of Garner, was at fault when she crossed the center line on Ligon Mill Road near Louisburg Road in Raleigh and collided with a westbound station wagon.

The bus then continued into the oncoming lane, striking Kissinger's truck.

Investigators determined that neither alcohol nor speed was a factor.

Hall, who was hired by the Wake County Public School System in May 2006, is suspended with pay pending the Highway Patrol's investigation, a school system spokesman has said.