Friends say a Maxton firefighter died doing what he did best — serving the public.
Samuel Butler was killed Sunday in a wreck on Interstate 74 East while responding to an accident, according to the state Highway Patrol. Butler was chief of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department. He was 52.
“Sam loved this job. It was his life,” said friend and former Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Chief, Montford “Buddy” Dial, Jr. of Maxton.
The patrol said Butler was trying to make a U-turn in his 1993 Toyota Camry at the end of the on-ramp from the Cabinet Shop Road exit on I-74 when his vehicle was struck by an eastbound tractor-trailer just before 10 p.m., according to a report by Trooper M.J. Miles.
Butler, who was not wearing a seat belt, died on impact, Miles said.
Miles said Butler was trying to reach an accident in the westbound lane at the same exit. The tractor-trailer was traveling about 60 mph when it struck Butler’s vehicle, Miles said. The speed limit in that area is 70 mph.
The driver of the truck, 37-year-old Robert Barrett of Malden, Mass., was not injured and will not face charges. He was wearing a seat belt.
“Each time we go on a call, we know that it is a risk and Sam was one of the best,” Dial said.
The mood was somber Monday afternoon at the Maxton fire department, as friends stopped by to offer condolences for the fallen firefighter. Displays of support have come from friends, family, and local businesses in the form of food, beverages, phone calls, cards and a steady stream of well wishers and various fire department officials from as far away as Raleigh.
Butler was named fire chief a year ago after Dial retired from the position. Butler had served as assistant fire chief for twelve years prior to becoming chief of the fire department. He had been with the fire department for more than twenty years.
Butler served as president of the Robeson County Fireman’s Association and was a member of the North Carolina Eastern Board Firefighters Association. A former Scotland County resident, he was employed by Campbell Soup.
“Sam was a great guy. He loved to have fun and help others,” said Trent Deese, chairman of the fire department. “It is a sad time for all of us right now. It was just so unexpected.”
Butler was married with a daughter and two sons. Both sons worked with their father at the fire department serving as junior and senior firefighters.