Two N.C. Firefighters Die Returning From Training

Details are emerging not only about a fatal weekend wreck on U.S. 221 North, but about the four people involved in it.

The crash claimed the lives of 23-year-old Jeremy Gordon Bolick of Lenoir and 20-year-old Charles Thomas Wright of Blowing Rock. Both men were members of Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue and had just spent the weekend training at McDowell's Fire and Rescue College.

Bolick was driving a 2008 Ford Mustang north on U.S. 221 near the U.S. Forest Service work center in Woodlawn, when he began hydroplaning on the rain-slick highway and slid sideways into the southbound lane, according to Trooper T.D. Brewer of the N.C. Highway Patrol.

The trooper estimated that Bolick was traveling 75 in a 50 mph zone in a downpour.

The Mustang struck a 2006 Chrysler driven by Cynthia White Bassett, 51, of Flagler Beach, Fla. Bassett and her passenger and husband, 51-year-old Jeffrey Wilkes Bassett, were taken by ambulance to Memorial Mission Hospital. Cynthia was listed in fair condition Monday, and Jeffrey was a patient in the neurotrauma intensive care unit, listed in serious condition.

A Highway Patrol reconstruction team was in Marion Monday, taking measurements and photos to further analyze the crash. Brewer said a witness reported that Bolick was not speeding, but troopers' preliminary investigation shows he was. Hopefully, he stated, the reconstruction will determine the exact speed at which the Mustang was traveling.

Bolick and Wright were among about 1,600 emergency workers training at the college this weekend. The two were working on their Firefighter I certification, which would have allowed them to fully participate in fighting a working fire, according to Jim Landis, volunteer and spokesman for Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue.

"These guys were out training as volunteers to support the community," Landis stated. "The fire department right now has suffered a big loss. It's just real tough for everybody."

Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue has about 50 paid and volunteer members. Landis added that Bolick's and Wright's fellow firefighters are grateful for the time their fallen brothers gave.

"These guys were very energetic in the fire department," he said. "They were really trying to be a part. They were looking forward to achieving their certifications so they could go into a fire.

"It's been a real tragic loss and right now we're trying to come together to handle it," Landis continued. "It's a tragic thing, especially for such young aspiring guys."

Bolick is the son of Dennis Bolick, who is the former chief of the department and still serves as a volunteer member. Wright is the son of Watauga High School Athletic Director Tom Wright.

The Watauga Democrat reported that Bolick joined the fire department in October 2007 and Wright joined in September 2009.

As a community mourns the loss of two young men, people in two states continue to pray for the Bassetts.

"I'm not trying to minimize the deaths of the firefighters or point fingers and say who was at fault, but our friends are fighting for their lives," said Dan Rotermund of Palm Coast, Fla. He and his wife, Kym, have been friend of Cynthia and Jeffrey Bassett for 10 or 12 years, he stated.

"They are conscientious, outgoing people who are concerned about others and are involved in their community," said Rotermund. "They are fun people."

The Bassetts lived part time at a residence on U.S. 221 North near Linville Caverns and part time in Florida. They traveled back and forth every month or two, according to Rotermund.

The couple has owned a business, EXIT Realty, Preferred Mountain and Lake Properties, at 70 N. Main St. in Marion since 2007. Both are real estate agents.

"They are our dear friends, and they are good people," said Rotermund.

He added that he and his wife learned about the wreck Monday morning through a post on Facebook, and, since that time, have been in frequent contact with the family.

"The family needs everyone's support and prayers," Rotermund stated.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service