Firefighter in crash faces DUI manslaughter count

Tests show both he and victim driving other vehicle were intoxicated.

The Times-Union
A Jacksonville firefighter faces a manslaughter charge for what authorities said was his role in an off-duty drunken-driving crash that killed a 43-year-old man hours after the Super Bowl.

George Faucher, 35, a five-year veteran of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, was released from the Duval County jail about 90 minutes after he surrendered to a Florida Highway Patrol investigator there Tuesday, authorities said.

The firefighter faces a DUI manslaughter charge, a second-degree felony, in the Feb. 7 death of James William Hughes, a Jacksonville musician and father of two whose family said he worked as an entertainment director for a riverboat cruise company.

Authorities said Faucher's eastbound Dodge pickup crossed the center line of McCormick Road about 2:50 a.m. His vehicle's left front then hit the left front of Hughes' westbound GMC pickup, spinning both vehicles counterclockwise, police said. Both drivers wore seatbelts.

The Highway Patrol said tests showed Faucher's blood alcohol level was .09 after the crash and Hughes' blood alcohol level was .21. Hughes also had cocaine in his system, authorities said. A person is over the legal limit at .08. Had Hughes lived, he would have faced a drunken-driving charge, authorities said.

Hughes died at the scene. Rescuers took Faucher to Shands Jacksonville hospital, where he underwent surgery.

Faucher was released from jail after a judge set bail at $100,000.

He was suspended from his job without pay pending the outcome of the case, a fire department spokesman said Tuesday.

Jacksonville fire union President Roger Lewis said Faucher is dedicated to firefighting.

"We certainly don't condone drinking and driving because we have to go to victims of those accidents all the time. But this is a tough situation and we're going to support our brother," he said.

Levert Hughes, the victim's father, said he was pleased by Faucher's arrest, calling the firefighter someone who should be saving lives, not taking them.

"He has a family too and I can forgive him, but I can't forgive for him to get off scot free," he said.

Hughes, 68, said he hasn't seen police reports that document his son's blood tests. He said his son had come from a musical gig at a nearby sports bar shortly before the crash.

"I know he drank. Don't get me wrong. But it's hard for a parent to believe if you're not there," he said., (904) 359-4161