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Incident Name:
Date: 07/27/2007
Personnel: Nemeth Fitzhugh Sanders
Age: 43
Agency/Organization: North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, North Carolina Forestry Service
Position: Forest Fire Equipment Operator

Summary: Forest Fire Equipment Operator Sanders was returning home after completing pump training in the North Carolina mountains with the North Carolina Forestry Department. He was driving a State-owned vehicle on Interstate 40 near Morrisville.

A traffic collision in the opposing direction of travel caused a tractor-trailer truck to cross through the median into Forest Fire Equipment Operator Sanders’ lane. His vehicle struck and went partially underneath the trailer. The trailer, his vehicle, and another car that struck the trailer burst into flames. Nemeth Sanders died of traumatic injuries.

Nemeth Sanders Nemeth Sanders

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Site of multi-car vehicle crash on Interstate 40 near Morrisville NC

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Press Release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

    We are sorry to share the recent news of NC Forestry forest fire equipment operator Nemeth Sanders who was killed in a traffic accident returning from a special training session. Nemeth Fitzhugh Lee Sanders was killed on I-40 on July 27, 2007.

    He had been employed with the state Division of Forest Resources since June 2006.

    Sanders was returning home from the western part of the state, where he had been attending a special training session. His mother said he called her just a few hours before to say that he had made a 95 on his first test.

    Funeral services will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday at Joyner's Funeral Home, 4100 Raleigh Road Parkway, Wilson. A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday in the Sanders Family Cemetery, 9684 Pace Road.

    He is survived by a daughter, Amanda Leigh Sanders of Zebulon; a son, Matthew Lee Sanders of Zebulon; his mother, Della Sanders of Bailey; a sister, Lori Ann Sanders of Bailey and his fiancé, Gwen Rigsby of Rocky Mount.

    The family will receive friends immediately following the service and at other times the family will be at 9684 Pace Road.

    Della Sanders, Nemeth’s mother, said the family will welcome any supporters at Nemeth’s funeral and burial.

    Nemeth’s burial will be held at the Sanders Family Cemetery, 9684 Pace Road, on the family’s farm in Bailey, where he and his mother lived, at 10 a.m. Monday.

    Memorial Fund Info

    Nemeth F. Sanders, who worked as a forest fire equipment operator at the N.C. Division of Forest Resources in Wilson County, was killed in the line of duty last Friday.

    The Nemeth F. Sanders Fund has been established to assist his family during this difficult time. Financial contributions are now being accepted. Anyone wishing to make a contribution may do so as follows:

    Make checks payable to: Marlene R. Sherrod
    For: Nemeth F. Sanders Fund

    Mail all contributions to:
    N.C. Division of Forest Resources
    Attention: Marlene R. Sherrod
    737 Smokey Road
    Rocky Mount, NC 27804

    Jamie Kritzer
    public information officer
    N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

  • USFA Memorial Database: Nemeth Fitzugh Sanders

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • 1 Dead, 5 Hurt in Fiery Tractor-Trailer Accident

    7/27/2007 | Online article

    [excerpts] ... three vehicles, including the tractor-trailer, were traveling westbound on I-40 shortly before 1 p.m. when a black Dodge pickup collided with a red pickup that collided with the tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer then crossed the median into the eastbound lanes, caught fire and exploded, the Highway Patrol said.

    A Dodge Neon, carrying a pregnant woman and her 8-year-old nephew was traveling eastbound when it collided with the rig, was knocked backward and slammed into the guardrail, according to investigators. A Nissan Altima and a silver Dodge pickup truck also collided with the tractor-trailer and were pinned beneath it. [snip] The driver of the silver Dodge pickup, Nemeth F. Sanders, 43, of Bailey, died at the scene, authorities said. He was an employee with the state Division of Forest Resources, the agency confirmed Friday night, and had been an employee since June 2006.

  • 1 dead in fiery I-40 crash

    7/28/2007 | Online article  (No longer online.)

    RALEIGH -- A fiery accident on Interstate 40 that killed one person and critically injured three others Friday closed the heavily traveled freeway in both directions for several hours near Raleigh-Durham International Airport, officials said.

    Eight vehicles were involved in the wreck, which began shortly before 1 p.m., when one westbound pickup truck collided with another pickup truck, which then collided with a tractor-trailer... (more at the link)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Nemeth Sanders Nemeth Sanders

  • Obituary submitted by Nemeth's sister

    Nemeth Fitzhugh Lee Sanders died on Friday, July 27, 2007 in a motor vehicle accident returning home from a pump training school in the North Carolina mountains with the North Carolina Forestry Service.

    Nemeth was always one who excelled at whatever he set out to accomplish. He earned the highest honor in the Boy Scouts of America by achieving the Eagle Scout Award. He was a CCO certified crane operator with designations in TSS and TLL. He also had his CDL's, of which he obtained the highest grade point average the school had ever recorded in the course (which is not surprising because he had been driving large trucks his entire life). He was an all around "jack of all trades."

    Nemeth believed in living each day to the fullest. He was devoted to his family and friends. He loved spending time with his children. He enjoyed being outside and expressed that we should not live in such a hurry that we overlook the beauty that surrounds us. He chose careers that would keep him caring for the land. He farmed for over twenty years before joining the North Carolina Forestry Service as an equipment operator.

    Nemeth was truly an outdoorsman. He enjoyed everything that would keep him outside. He was a member of several hunting clubs. He loved the sportsmanship in hunting and fishing. He often would take his son, Matthew, along with him. He enjoyed going on canoe trips, weekend camping trips, riding horses on trails (sharing this love with his daughter, Amanda), riding four-wheelers, and cooking (especially on the grill). He liked to look through cookbooks and watch cooking shows to get new ideas to try as well as coming up with his own creations. Still today people are requesting his "secret recipe" for potatoes.

    Nemeth had a "heart of gold". He had a sense of humor that could make you laugh and bring a smile to your face regardless of the circumstance. He could take any negative situation, turn it around and have you laughing before it was over. Nemeth fell off his horse during a trail ride in May of 2007 and fractured his right wrist. During the time he wore the cast, he would refer to his arm as a "broken wing". He was always willing to help, whether it be offering advice, or just being supportive.

    Nemeth will be forever missed by his children, Amanda and Matthew Sanders; his mother, Della Sanders; his sister, Lori Sanders; fiancée, Gwen P. Rigsby; co-workers and friends. "Oh that we would be able to look into his beautiful, penetrating blue eyes just one more time!"

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Contributors to this article: Mellie

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