Hanover mourns loss of firefighter who died along I-295 dur­ing storm

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY SEAN GOR­MAN

Hanover County fire­fight­ers on Fri­day were still pro­cess­ing the news that one of their col­leagues was killed the night be­fore while re­spond­ing to the scene of a two-ve­hi­cle crash dur­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Michael, and the firefighter’s fam­ily was griev­ing his loss.

Lt. Brad Clark, 43, of Me­chan­icsville was one of four Hanover fire­fight­ers struck as a south­bound trac­tor-trailer ran into the back of a firetruck about 9 p.m. on In­ter­state 295 north of the Mead­ow­bridge Road-Pole Green Road exit, ac­cord­ing to Vir­ginia State Po­lice. The trac­tor-trailer’s driver was charged.

Clark died at the scene. Two other fire­fight­ers were taken to VCU Med­i­cal Cen­ter with life-threat­en­ing in­juries, au­thor­i­ties said.

Hanover Fire-EMS of­fi­cials said Fri­day af­ter­noon that one of the in­jured fire­fight­ers was in sta­ble con­di­tion and the other firefighter was in se­ri­ous but sta­ble con­di­tion. A

fourth firefighter suf­fered mi­nor in­juries and was treated at the scene, state po­lice said.

Keri Broughton, Clark’s ex-wife, re­called Fri­day how he loved be­ing a firefighter.

“I think he got the same brother­hood, ca­ma­raderie [as a firefighter] as he had when he was in the mil­i­tary, when he was in the Army,” Broughton said.

Brady Clark, the firefighter’s 14-year-old daugh­ter, said that her dad was very funny, but she added that he also would tell corny jokes that she would have to pre­tend to laugh at.

“I just loved him so much,” Brady Clark said. “There were times when we didn’t get along like most par­ent and kid sit­u­a­tions, but I wouldn’t have traded him for any­thing in the world. I wouldn’t have asked for any other per­son to be my dad.”

Bat­tal­ion Chief Gre­gory Martin with Hanover FireEMS said Clark had been with the depart­ment since July 2005.

Fire of­fi­cials asked mem­bers of the me­dia to keep a dis­tance from Sta­tion 6 in Me­chan­icsville where Clark worked. As fire­fight­ers were cop­ing with the tragic news, they were still tasked with re­spond­ing to calls, Martin said.

“They’re strong.

They’re vig­i­lant, but like any­body else they con­tinue with the mis­sion,” Martin said. “They are try­ing to come to grips with what’s hap­pened.”

The trac­tor-trailer ran into the back of the firetruck while it was stopped in the far left lane and shoul­der. State po­lice said the en­gine’s emer­gency lights were ac­ti­vated. The trac­tor-trailer struck the four fire­fight­ers while they were out­side the en­gine, au­thor­i­ties said.

Driver Lester Labarge, 49, of Cal­i­for­nia, Md., was charged with reck­less driv­ing and cited for de­fec­tive brakes, au­thor­i­ties said. Labarge was taken to the hospi­tal for treat­ment of se­ri­ous in­juries.

The crash re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and ad­di­tional charges are pend­ing, state po­lice said.

Clark was re­called dur­ing a news con­fer­ence held by Gov. Ralph Northam on Fri­day at the state emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter in Ch­ester­field County.

“Many of my emer­gency man­age­ment staff knew and worked with him,” said Jeff Stern, di­rec­tor of the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Emer­gency Man­age­ment.

About 1:15 p.m. Fri­day, the flag that was fly­ing in front of Sta­tion 6 was low­ered and folded up as fire­fight­ers and Hanover sher­iff’s deputies saluted.

Other fire de­part­ments tweeted out sup­port and prayers for Hanover Fire-EMS.

“Our hearts are bro­ken to hear of a LODD [line of duty death] so close to home! I wish our Broth­ers and Sis­ters in Hanover great strength in the com­ing days and prayers for both the agency and all the fam­i­lies in­volved,” the Black­stone Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment said in a Face­book post. “Once again folks ... PLEASE MOVE OVER AND SLOW DOWN! The big­gest risk that we take should not be pro­vid­ing res­cue ser­vices on a side of the road!”

Lilly Clark, Brad Clark’s 11-year-old daugh­ter, said her dad al­ways cared about help­ing oth­ers.

“He was just a great per­son, and he re­ally didn’t de­serve this,” she said.

DEAN HOFFMEYER/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Two men hug at the Hanover fire sta­tion where Lt. Brad Clark (be­low), who was killed Thurs­day night in a crash, worked.

VIR­GINIA STATE PO­LICE

A trac­tor-trailer ran into the back of a firetruck while it was stopped along­side I-295 as fire­fight­ers were re­spond­ing to a crash dur­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Michael.

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