03/27/10 280 W - + 5 - 12 West of New Bern Firefighter Dies on Duty, 1973

On November 6, 1973, West of New Bern firefighter Gerald O'Neal Tilghman, 52, died on duty while directing traffic. An article in the January-Febraury 1974 issue of Hose & Nozzle provides details. The four-year veteran fireman was stopping traffic on four-lane Highway 17 at the intersection with Simmons Street, to help apparatus reach a fire on Oaks Road.

One unit was approaching the intersection with lights and siren, and slowed to 20 miles an hour. A yellow Ford coupe went through the intersection, "just a yellow blur" recalled on the firemen on the truck. Tilghman apparently saw the car coming at him, was struck by the vehicle, and his body tossed 67 feet to his death.

The car stopped 475 feet down the road. There no skid marks before or after the point of impact, said police. The accident occurred at 9:25 p.m.. Tilghman was apparently killed on impact, and pronounced dead at Craven County Hospital about an hour later. The driver was charged with public drunkenness, driving under the influence, and failure to yield right-of-way to an emergency vehicle with siren sound and lights flashing.

Two other cars at the intersection and stopped. Tilghman's private vehicle was parked in the intersection, along the center median. He was dressed in a white shirt, grey pants, and wearing an olive drab jacket. He did not have a flashlight.

His death certificate lists additional information. The cause of death was skull fractures. He was buried on November 8 at Greenleaf Memorial Park in New Bern. Arrangements were made by Cotten Funeral Home of New Bern. He was survived by his wife Henrietta, and was employed in the occupation of civil service.

Their building of their main fire station is named after him.
jd - 03/30/10 - 20:04

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