Local News

Rural Franklin Co. town mourns loss of volunteer firefighter

Posted September 17, 2014 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2014 6:26 p.m. EDT

— 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.