A Morganton man accused of hitting and killing a firefighter in 2017 was sentenced to 28-43 months in prison on Tuesday, according to a press release from the 36th district attorney’s office.
Randall Hugh Stewart, 59, entered a guilty plea Tuesday before Gaston County Superior Court Judge David Phillips during Burke County Superior Court for the vehicular death of 40-year-old Jason Keith Hensley on Oct. 9, 2017.
On the day of Hensley’s death, Hensley and another firefighter were cleaning storm debris from a tree blocking U.S. 70 in Drexel when Stewart struck Hensley, Hensley’s truck and a Triple Community Fire Department brush truck. The blunt force impact of the crash killed Hensley, according to the release.
Hensley was a volunteer firefighter for the Triple Community Fire Department for only eight months. At the time of the accident, Hensley was wearing his department-issued reflective gear, and all emergency vehicles at the location — including a Drexel Police Department cruiser, brush truck from Triple Community Fire Department and Hensley’s personal vehicle — had their emergency lights in operation, the release said.
Stewart also faced habitual felon status, but the defense filed a motion to have that indictment dismissed prior to the guilty plea. Judge Phillips ruled that one of the felony convictions Stewart had from California was not “substantially similar” in nature to a felony in North Carolina, so the felony indictment was dismissed by the court, according to the release.
Members of Hensley’s family and Triple Community firefighters were present for the Tuesday hearing and sentencing. A department representative addressed the court and described the impact Hensley’s tragic death had on Hensley’s family and their firefighters, according to the release.
Trooper Daniel Lane investigated the fatality for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Trooper Dan Souther completed an accident reconstruction. Assistant District Attorneys Lance Sigmon and Michelle Lippert prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office.