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‘A very good man’

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Former Buford firefighter drowns in flooding incident

By Chris Sardelli

“A very good man.”

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With those four words, Buford Volunteer Fire Department Chief Billy Morris summed up his friend Danny Ray Deese, 60, who died after he was caught in flooding waters off Duckwood Road early Monday morning, Jan. 12.

“It was a lot to take in,” Morris said. “He was a real family man. He got along with anyone and he was a good Christian man.”

The two men had known each other for more than two decades, much of that time with Deese serving as assistant fire chief.

“We got really close during that time,” Morris said. “He was a good leader.” 

Mostly, Morris remembered Deese as “a super person.” 

“I’ve never known him to really get mad. He was very relaxed; never heard him fuss,” Morris said. “When the new guys needed help, he was around to help. He was a dedicated fireman.” 

The news of Deese’s death spread quickly Monday amongst members of the county’s various fire departments, he said.

“The whole fire service is a brotherhood, just like family, and this is hard,” Morris said. 

Deese was found about 6:45 a.m., shortly after being swept from his pickup in a flooded culvert across Duckwood Road, near where Flat and Lick creeks meet. The incident happened along the side of the road, about a mile south of White Bluff Baptist Church in the White Bluff community, about 15 miles east of Lancaster.

Lancaster County Chief Deputy Coroner Karla Deese confirmed Danny Deese’s cause of death Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 13,  as drowning.

An autopsy was performed Tuesday morning.

Lancaster County Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder said members of the Flat Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Lancaster Fire Department and Lancaster County Fire and Rescue all responded to the scene along Duckwood Road, where they found Deese’s pickup about 100 yards off the road.

Blackwelder remained at the scene until about 11 a.m.

“All I can tell you is we got called about a motor vehicle accident on Duckwood Road and basically the road flooded around the vehicle,” Blackwelder said.

The flooding was the result of severe rain that fell in the area overnight. Blackwelder said it is estimated at least 2.5 inches of rain fell in the area within the previous 30 hours.

“The side of the road washed away,” he said. “It was a culvert that had washed out. 

“The flooding was definitely the cause of the accident and we’ll see whether it’s determined to be a traffic-related fatality or a flooding-related fatality,” Blackwelder said.

Troopers with the S.C. Highway Patrol were still at the scene Monday afternoon gathering information, but no official report has been released, said SCHP Lance Cpl. James Miller.

“The coroner has got to determine the cause of death first before we know what we can release,” Miller said. “If we determine it was a result of an accident, then we will release that, but we have to wait.”

Blackwelder said it might be difficult to ascertain the exact cause of the accident.

“It’s hard to figure out what happened. We really don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know what happened,” Blackwelder said. “This one is really gonna hit home because it’s a retired volunteer firefighter. At first, the training comes into play, but the emotions come later.”

Laughed and cried

Blackwelder and Buford Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Rocky Hudson held a press conference Monday afternoon at the county’s Emergency Management building to discuss Deese’s accident and his service to the county.

“We’re just in shock. Danny was a big part of our department,” Hudson said. “I haven’t talked to the family yet and hopefully will today.”

Hudson said Deese was married with four children and had been a firefighter with the Buford volunteer fire department for 21 years. Deese had worked with many of the county’s firefighters, including Hudson.

“We laughed together and we cried together. Danny and I did a lot of training together. I was fortunate to train and serve with Danny. He was a fun guy and we enjoyed being around him,” Hudson said. “This is a tragic loss, a tragic loss to our community.”

Hudson said he learned the news from his department’s assistant chief.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “We’re not really sure what happened. I’ve just been told bits and pieces. 

“I’ve always been told not to drive through water,” Hudson said. “We got a lot of rain last night (Sunday) and our advice is don’t drive through it because something like this could happen.”

He asked the public to remember Deese’s dedication to the county.

“It takes a special person to get up in the middle of the night and do this. A volunteer firefighter has to train and continue to train, and it does take a lot of time to be a volunteer firefighter. It speaks to the kind of man Danny was that he put in a lot of time and trained like he did,” Hudson said. “He was honestly a good man.”

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416