A North Carolina firefighter died in the line of duty early Tuesday, September 30 when he suffered a heart attack at the fire station.
Firefighter Gerald Hayswood Williams, 61, had served the Cool Springs Volunteer Fire Department for 12 years. He suffered a fatal heart attack the morning after participating in strenuous hose training.
His death came as the department was still recovering from the recent loss of Lt. Randy Neal Jones, 23, who was killed on July 28th in a motor vehicle collision while responding to a building fire.
"Everybody was in a daze, thinking 'This can't be happening again,'" said Deputy Chief Andy Webster.
Williams was part American Indian and enjoyed it when firefighters nicknamed him Chief, Webster said.
"If you ever met him you would never forget him. He had a real deep voice, he was real funny, always had a smile on his face. You couldn't ask for a nicer guy," Webster said. "All the young guys here thought the world of him, and treated him like a pop a lot of times."
After training Monday night, Williams was there as usual joking around with other firefighters. "Then Monday morning he was gone," Webster said. "It looked like he had gotten up to go to work and that was it."
Williams was an active firefighter until about a year ago, when he became a fire department traffic officer. He is survived by his wife Doris and his step-children, Scottie Harris and Julie Rupard.
Webster said the department is also concerned about another older firefighter, who recently had a heart attack at home and is not doing well at the hospital. "We've been wishing this black cloud would blow away for us," he said.
In the face of so much tragedy, Webster said the department is also fortunate to have so much support from neighboring fire departments. "Just like when Randy died, the phone hasn't quit ringing," he said.
Visitation will take place October 2 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Union Chapel Church in Statesville, NC. The funeral is planned for October 3 at 4:00 p.m. at the church, with the burial to follow at the church cemetery.