USA — A “sudden” shift of wind sent smoke so heavy across the road that three drivers couldn’t see a firetruck partially blocking the road with emergency lights flashing.
The first vehicle narrowly missed the truck and New Jersey Forest Fire Service Warden Jeffrey Scheuerer, the Jeep behind it struck and killed the firefighter near Round Valley Recreation Area. The SUV that was third in line clipped the firetruck and the Jeep.
Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns released these findings this evening as the results of the preliminary investigation into the death of Scheuerer, who was working a Forest Fire Service controlled burn with a crew alongside Lebanon-Stanton Road when he was killed.
The accident happened on March 28 at about 11:30 a.m. Scheuerer, 35, was a six-year veteran of the Fire Service and a 21-year veteran of the Readington Township Volunteer Fire Company.
According to Kearns, the controlled burn “required the fire apparatus to move frequently. At the time of the crash, the firetruck was stopped and partially blocking the northbound lane of travel. The firetruck had emergency lights operating.”
He said it appeared that Scheuerer was “operating a hose reel on the drivers side of the firetruck and was in the southbound lane” when a “sudden shift in the wind brought heavy smoke into the roadway and caused a significant reduction in visibility.”
While this happened, Kearns said, three vehicles approached in the northbound lanes, but the smoke was so heavy that they couldn’t see the firetruck “until the last second.”
The first driver, Kearns said, swerved and missed hitting the firetruck and firefighter. Immediately behind was a 2010 Jeep Liberty driven by Traci Komoroski, 52, of Lebanon.
The prosecutor said that Komoroski swerved to avoid the firetruck in the northbound lane and hit Scheuerer.
The firetruck, and Komoroski’s Jeep, were then hit by a 2010 Dodge Nitro driven by Louis Acuri Jr., 56, of Lebanon, Kearns said.
None of the three drivers reported injuries at the scene and no tickets have been issued, Kearns said, although the investigation is not closed.
The prosecutor said, This was a tragic accident and our deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Scheuerers family, the Readington Volunteer Fire Company; as well as Mr. Scheuerers colleagues in the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
Scheuerer’s funeral was held today.
Gov. Chris Christie ordered the flags at the Statehouse lowered today through Monday in honor of Scheuerer’s service.