The victim of a deadly firetruck crash on St. John was 31-year-old Kasey Callwood of St. Thomas, who was killed Monday after the vehicle lost control on a hill, according to V.I. Fire Service Director Daryl George.
Callwood was the only passenger in a tanker driven by firefighter Nikye Knight, and the loss of control caused the truck to “flip, roll and eject both personnel,” George said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The truck was among a group returning from a training exercise in the Hurricane Hole area of Coral Bay, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash, he said.
Callwood was pinned underneath the truck while Knight was thrown clear and found on the roadside. Other firefighters in the lead truck stopped and extricated Callwood, and emergency medical responders pronounced him dead at the scene, George said.
His body was taken to the morgue at Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas.
Knight suffered contusions to his head and other bruises and cuts.
“Physically he is OK, but right now he is emotionally fragile, so definitely we have to support each other in these times,” Fire Chief David Hodge said during the news conference.
Hodge expressed condolences to Callwood’s family, and said that “everyone is hurting” after the horrific crash.
George agreed that “it’s a hurtful day to the Fire Service” and shared condolences for Callwood’s family and loved ones.
There have been rumors swirling around the cause of the crash, and George said the V.I. Police Department’s Motor Carrier Unit is leading an investigation to determine how and why the truck lost control.
“We don’t know. There’s a lot of speculation, there’s people calling me with all kinds of craziness,” George said in an interview with The Daily News.
He said he met with Callwood’s mother Tuesday morning and “all she’s asking is for us to do a thorough investigation.”
He said Callwood and Knight both graduated together in the firefighter training class of 2019 and were good friends.
While Knight survived the crash, “mentally, he’s just totally destroyed,” George said.
George said it’s too early to say what might have caused the fatal crash.
“I just want people to be patient and let the investigation reveal the cause, and then we’ll take it from there. Respect the young man’s passing; this was a tragedy,” George said.
On Tuesday, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. ordered all flags in the territory to be lowered to half-mast beginning at sunrise today, until sunrise Monday.
“Each day, and especially now during this pandemic, I say a special prayer for God’s protection over all of our first responders who often bravely and selflessly put their lives, health and safety behind serving and protecting our community,” Bryan said in a prepared statement.
“The tragic incident that occurred yesterday is a sad and sobering reminder of that sacrifice. We are all saddened by this unfortunate tragedy and pray for Kasey Callwood’s family, friends and colleagues, and we also pray for the full recovery of Nikye Knight following yesterday’s accident.”