LEBANON, Mo.-- A man from St. Louis is charged with a felony as a firefighter injured on Interstate 44 on Saturday night in Laclede County recovers in a hospital in Springfield. Tracy Henry, 37, was hit by a vehicle while trying to direct traffic around an accident scene near Hazelgreen, northeast of Lebanon.
Timothy Laurentius, 19, is charged with second-degree assault of emergency personnel, and the Laclede County prosecuting attorney says she expects more traffic charges will be filed.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Laurentius was driving the Jeep Cherokee that struck Henry, a Tri-County District firefighter, around 6:45 Saturday night.
Tri-County Fire Chief Rick Hobbs was in Springfield on Sunday to visit Henry at the hospital. Though his injuries are serious, family members say Henry is doing better.
The night was cold, snowy and windy, with multiple accidents because of the slick roads. It only got worse when Henry was hit working an accident scene near mile marker 142 on I-44.
"We were set up to do traffic control, and we were just trying to get the traffic to merge over into the regular driving lane when the accident occurred," said Hobbs.
The Highway Patrol says the passing eastbound lane was closed off with orange cones but Laurentius swerved into the closed lane and struck the guardrail and Henry.
"One of them hollered on the radio that one of the firefighters had been hit. I ran up and started giving medical assistance to him," said Hobbs.
An ambulance took Henry to the hospital in Lebanon and then transferred him to a hospital in Springfield. His family, including a wife, son and daughter, and his fellow firefighters were at his bedside on Sunday.
"He's in good spirits," Hobbs said.
Henry's been a full time St. Robert firefighter for about the past year and a volunteer firefighter with Tri-County for about the last five years.
"We're a small department; we've got a lot of young guys, and we're real close. It affects them all," said Hobbs.
Henry's fellow firefighters all know the risks they take every day but they ask that drivers be cautious and help them do their jobs safely.
"If you're driving and you see lights flashing, slow down, slow down," Hobbs said.
Firefighters had a special meeting on Sunday night to talk about the accident and help one another deal with the situation. One of Henry's fellow firefighters happens to be his own brother, who was working dispatch when the call came through.
Henry's injuries are serious, but his family says doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Republished with permission of KY-TV.