Tenn. Firefighters Recovering After Driver Hits Pumper

As a pickup truck hauling a trailer barreled towards a Braden pumper truck parked in the median on I-40 Monday night, there was nothing the firefighters in its way could do.

The crash injured three firefighters -- two critically -- killed the pickup truck's driver and injured its passenger.

One of the firefighters was on the first step at the rear of the 2000 International 4900 Crew Cab pumper truck loading equipment after putting out a grass fire and the other was only feet away assisting him when the crash occurred shortly after 5 p.m.

Firefighter Josh Sair -- a 7-year veteran -- suffered a crushed pelvis, factures to his femur and is currently experiencing pulse issues in one foot.

Capt. Mack Green Jr. -- a 15-year veteran -- sustained four fractured ribs, multiple contusions and an anemic thorax.

Both firefighters were airlifted to Regional Medical Center at Memphis and have since been upgraded to stable condition.

"They're both in good spirits. I just got off the phone with them about 45 minutes ago," Fire Chief Hunter Winfrey told Firehouse.com Tuesday afternoon as he was en route to the hospital.

Lt. Josh Campbell -- a 17-year veteran -- was in the driver's seat of the pumper when the incident occurred and was hospitalized for a leg injury but released Monday night.

The driver of the pickup truck that was transporting antique items, Mark Eric Kleinwachter, was killed and his passenger, Barbara Kleinwachter, was transported to Regional Medical Center.

Winfrey said they would have normally dispatched a brush truck to the scene to shield responders from oncoming traffic, but it was out of service.

"We should have been very visible," he said. "Luckily we had the pumper truck to protect the scene and it did its job."

Several witness said that Kleinwachter didn't slow down, didn't swerve before hitting the rig.

The Braden Fire Department responds to a majority of its calls on I-40 and its firefighters are well prepared for working in the dark. Their fire apparatus are lime green and their turnout gear is yellow and they wear reflective vests to calls.

"We could have been wearing neon suits last night and it would have never made a difference," Whitney said.

The department has covered the span of interstate since 1978, and they once had red fire trucks they eventually switched to brighter colors in order to stand out in the dark.

"We've been very lucky all these years. This is first time we've had a piece of apparatus totaled and injuries to firefighters," he said. "We've certainly had our share of close calls."