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Volunteer firefighter hit by vehicle driven by sheriff’s deputy

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THERESA — Lance G. Willix, a longtime volunteer firefighter praised by his chief for being “always around here” to answer a call, was seriously injured Friday evening at the scene of an accident when he was struck by a vehicle driven by a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy.

The 43-year veteran of the Theresa Fire Department was directing traffic near a two-vehicle crash close to the intersection of routes 37 and 411 near LaFargeville Road, Theresa Fire Chief Mark S. Savage said. About 5:30 p.m., Mr. Willix was hit when a vehicle driven by Deputy Shaun D. Cuddeback, who was responding to the incident, turned north onto Route 37, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Mr. Savage said he was only a few feet away from Mr. Willix, 67, Theresa, when he was hit. “I heard the impact,” Mr. Savage said. “I turned around and there he was. All I could do was try to keep him still.”

Mr. Willix was taken by helicopter to Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, where a nursing supervisor said he was listed in fair condition late Friday.

Mr. Savage said he was able to talk with Mr. Willix’s wife at the hospital, and she reported Mr. Willix was stable but had suffered a broken femur. He said he was told more tests were being run to gauge the severity of Mr. Willix’s injuries.

Two people involved in the initial crash, first called in at 5:01 p.m., were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police were investigating whether the presence of bystanders and fire apparatus may have been a factor in Mr. Willix’s accident.

Mr. Savage said Mr. Willix was wearing all of the necessary safety gear and was following proper procedure to direct traffic at the time of the incident.

“You look at it, and he’s the last one you’d think would be involved in something like this,” Mr. Savage said. “He’s done a lot of roads for a lot of hours.”

Mr. Savage said medical crews, already at the scene of the initial collision, were able to respond to Mr. Willix immediately.

He added this was the first time he had seen an incident like this in 25 years serving with the department.

Mr. Savage said Mr. Willix is serving as the fire department’s president, and previously had been the president of the Jefferson County Fire Chiefs Association.

“If you’ve been in the fire service, everybody knows the name,” Mr. Savage said.

Both incidents are still under investigation.

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