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Firefighter accused of throwing helmet, shattering windshield
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Firefighter accused of throwing helmet, shattering windshield

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Illustration: Fire Truck

A volunteer firefighter is on administrative leave after he allegedly threw his helmet at a vehicle while directing traffic.

The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office charged the 20-year-old firefighter with a misdemeanor of malicious injury to personal property. He was later released on a $500 personal recognizance bond.

An OCSO incident report notes the helmet shattered the windshield of the car — a 2007 Volkswagen Beetle — causing about $500 worth of damage.

The women in the vehicle were both hit by the helmet and were taken to the hospital for minor injuries, according to the report.

According to an Orangeburg County Fire District press release, the Pine Hill Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a motor vehicle accident with injures at 10 p.m. May 12.

In addition, a tree fell across both lanes of Shillings Bridge Road.

Fire department members used a chainsaw to remove the tree and open one lane of traffic. Firefighters were directing traffic at the scene.

“The member observed one vehicle that appeared not to be obeying the warning devices,” the fire district said in its statement.

“The member made three attempts to gain the driver’s attention. As the member was jumping out of the way of the approaching vehicle, the incident report states the helmet was removed and threw it toward the victim’s car,” the release said.

Orangeburg County Fire System Coordinator Gene Ball questioned the charge.

“When you are about to get run over, what are you going to do?” Ball said. “Over the last six months, I have seen people go around barriers and gone around roadblocks, not heeding red lights and firefighters dressed up in reflective gear. It greatly concerns us.”

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Lakeshia Morgan, whose 21-year-old daughter was a passenger in the car, said the vehicle was proceeding as expected near the incident when the “firefighter jumped out of nowhere and smashed his helmet on the windshield.”

“He said they were going too fast but why didn’t he stop everyone else in front of them?” Morgan said. “He was very irate.”

Morgan, who arrived on the scene, said her daughter was very upset and is still having to see a doctor because of her injuries.

According to the sheriff’s office incident report, Morgan’s daughter told officers that the 20-year-old driver of the car “slowed down completely because it was raining and the fireman did not signal for traffic to stop because there were cars in front of them.”

Morgan said neither the driver of the vehicle nor her daughter was charged.

The firefighter denied the women’s story, saying the car was not slowing down despite it being signaled to do so, the report states.

The firefighter said he threw the helmet because he “feared for life and his fellow firefighter’s life.”

Another witness quoted in the incident report supported the firefighter’s version of events.

But Morgan says her daughter and her daughter’s friend were the victims.

“I want the story to be told,” she said. “His actions were unnecessary. He is supposed to serve and protect us when we are in need of him when he is actually doing more harm than good.

“I want to let the community know that you can’t do this to people and get away from doing this to anyone.”

The South Carolina Highway Patrol was also on the scene of the accident but the investigation was turned over to the sheriff’s office.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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