COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Funeral arrangements are being made for an East Tennessee fire captain who died earlier this week. Several counties will be coming together to support the fire department with their recent loss.
North Tazewell Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Roy Lee Sewell Jr. was just 27 years old when he was responding to a call about an injured child and his fire engine overturned, killing him.
The death of a first responder is something no department wants to experience, but it is one some know all too well. In Cocke County, first responders are trying their best to help their friends in need.
“The emergency response community is a group of people who are dedicated to their communities, but also to each other,” Cocke County EMA Director Joe Esway said.
Esway does not have a personal connection to Claiborne County but he does know the emotions the community is feeling at this moment.
“It’s always difficult to experience the loss of a fallen brother or fallen sister,” he said. “In a lot of ways, there is as much family as our own blood is. So the loss is felt long and it’s felt deep. Cocke County is no stranger to tragedy. We’ve lost emergency responders over the years and it’s not something that you ever fully recover from but it is something that, with prayer and support from family and your comrades, you can learn to deal with.”
His team will be making the drive to Claiborne County on Saturday to participate in Sewell’s “last ride,” and they are asking for monetary donations to help the Sewell family.
“It’s going to be a tough climb for that family and for that department, for that community, and if we can help in some small measure, then we’re going to go out there and we’re going to help any way that we can,” Esway said.
Grassy Fork Fire Department Chief Walt Cross says the first responder community is tight and risks their lives for others.
“Only 6% of the fire departments in the United States are 100% paid. Around 67% of the fire departments across the United States are 100% volunteers, and then there is a combination of ones who are paid and volunteered. We do it because we care about our neighbors,” he said.
The first responder community is made up of a group of strangers spanning across county lines who come together to lift one another up in times of tragedy.
“When one’s in need, we show up,” Esway said.
Essway adds that you can drop off donations at the Cocke County Fairgrounds, both at the fire department and EMA building located at 120 Fairground Circle in Newport.
A celebration of life with fire service honors for Captain Sewell will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 at Claiborne High School.