Officials say Trooper Nolan J. Sanders, 28, got pinned inside his car before several small fires started. Two responding troopers quickly extinguished the flames, said Col. Glenn McNeill.
McNeill says someone driving behind Sanders on northbound I-795, near Exit 22, witnessed the crash happen around 7:15 p.m. Friday night.
“We are grieving right now and we are devastated by this great loss,” said McNeill. “[Sanders] loved to volunteer and he loved to help his community in any way that he possibly could.”
Before becoming commander of the NCSHP, McNeill served as director of training and met Sanders upon his arrival in May 2015.
“Trooper Sanders personified what it meant to be a trooper. His passing will leave a lasting mark on all that had the honor to work together with him,” said McNeill. "The coming days and weeks will prove to be difficult, but we will stand with the Sanders family throughout this difficult process.”
Sanders also served as a captain for the Indian Springs Volunteer Fire Department. He joined the ranks in 2013 after serving in the Dudley Volunteer Fire Department.
Before joining the Highway Patrol, the 28-year-old learned the ropes of law enforcement as a deputy with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
“Nolan was an outstanding young man. He was very well-liked by everybody … He brightened the room up anytime he came in," said Indian Springs Fire Chief Phil Shivar. “He was willing to go the extra step to help his fellow man.”
On Saturday, fellow firefighters led a procession down Highway 55 as Sanders was taken to a funeral home in Mount Olive.
“I think part of that helps with our members’ closure,” said Shivar. “It helps realize this is real. It’s a traumatic event, but it keeps everyone involved."
Sanders leaves behind his wife, Alexis Sanders, and a seven-month-old daughter.
“It’s a big loss to everybody,” said Shivar. “We are a tight-knit community here."
McNeill says Sanders was not speeding and not responding to a call when he crashed. He says investigators will review Sanders’ in-car camera, cell phone records and medical tests to determine what went wrong.
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