The man who is accused of hitting and killing a volunteer firefighter from the Triple Community Fire Department in Burke County on Sunday night had his first court appearance Wednesday.
Firefighters were dispatched to a tree that was blocking the eastbound and westbound lanes of Highway 70 East near the Drexel intersection just before midnight Sunday, according to a spokesperson with the fire department.
Fire Marshall Mike Willis said a truck, driven by 58-year-old Randall Stewart, hit Jason Keith Hensley, Hensley’s vehicle and then the firetruck. The 40-year-old firefighter was killed "instantly upon impact."
Officials said Hensley and another firefighter were wearing reflective vests and standing next to vehicles, including a firetruck, that had emergency lights flashing.
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Stewart was charged with felony death by vehicle, which is in addition to his other charges of driving while impaired, reckless driving and possession of marijuana.
“It was not my fault,” he said Tuesday.
Stewart said he was tired and heading home to go to sleep. He said that while he did see the lights of the emergency vehicles, he did not see Hensley. When asked if he was high on drugs at the time, Stewart said no. "I wasn’t high, I don’t have a problem with drugs,” he said.
Moments later, Stewart said, “I haven’t been high in days.”
When asked again about the day of the crash, Stewart said, “Earlier in the day I smoked a joint.”