PENN LAIRD, Va. -- A 17-year-old Spotswood High School student died in an early-morning crash Friday on his way to his job as a volunteer firefighter, officials say.
At about 1 a.m., police say Roy Dale Smith III was traveling northbound on Island Ford Road near Elkton when he entered a curve, ran off the right side of the road, overcorrected and ran off the left side of the road. His 1996 Isuzu Rodeo then traveled down a small embankment, flipped several times and struck a power box.
Smith, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle. He died at the scene, according to Sgt. L. Tyler of the Virginia State Police.
"The usage of seat belts may have prevented some of the injuries and possibly the death in this accident," said Tyler, adding that the investigation is ongoing, but it appears fog and speed may have played a factor. <
Dedicated To Firefighting
At the time of the crash, Smith was responding to a call of a structure fire that rang into the McGaheysville Volunteer Fire Company, officials say.
Smith had been a volunteer with the department since October 2007 and dreamed of one day becoming a professional firefighter.
Mike Davis, an industrial cooperative training coordinator at Spotswood High, said he would never forget Smith's enthusiasm for firefighting and his commitment to helping others.
"Every week he would talk to me about being a professional firefighter," Davis said. "I asked him one time, 'Roy, why do you want to be a firefighter?' He simply said, 'I just want to help people.'"
Smith's dedication to the firefighting profession was apparent, Davis said, when the Skills USA club participated in a decorating contest that had a New York City theme. Smith's role was to portray a firefighter at the Twin Towers.
Smith stood in full gear, including a respirator, for nearly two hours during the competition. By the end, he was perspiring heavily, Davis recalled.
"I told him that I didn't mean for him to get so hot," Davis recalled. "He told me, 'I wanted to do right by the firefighters who gave their lives on 9/11.'"
Davis added, "Roy was an excellent student who always gave his best. [He] was an exceptional young man."
'A Fine Young Man'
Tim Woodward, principal at Spotswood High School, called Smith a model student who participated in a variety of activities.
Smith was a member of the Spotswood FFA, Skills USA Club and the industrial cooperative training program. He also took firefighting classes at Massanutten Technical Center.
"He was very well liked, just a very good citizen," Woodward said. "He unfortunately died doing what he loved and that was helping others. ... He was just a fine young man."
Rebecca Holloway had Smith in her introduction to agriculture class at Spotswood. She remembers him as a well-mannered guy who always had a positive outlook.
"Roy always had a smile on his face," she said. He "was always so polite and willing to do anything you needed him to do."
Grief counselors and other support staff were at Spotswood during the day Friday to help students and teachers cope with the loss of one of their own.
"It's had quite an impact on our school," said Woodward, adding that students are discussing ways to remember their classmate. "Roy's life will serve as a beacon to others to put service before self and, together, we will keep his legacy moving forward."
Republished with permission of The Daily News Record.
Visitation will be held from 6-9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10 from 6-9 p.m. the Kyger Funeral Home at 115 Nicholson Rd in Elkton, VA.
The funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11.
More information is available on the fire department website.