MAXTON — A Robeson County fire chief is being remembered as a man who was devoted to his work, who never met a stranger — and who died in the line of duty on Sunday.
Samuel Butler, 52, the chief of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, was killed in a two-vehicle accident just before 10 p.m. on Sunday on Interstate 74 East, according to the state Highway Patrol.
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 East when his vehicle was struck by an eastbound tractor-trailer, according to a report by Trooper M.J. Miles.
Butler, who was not wearing a seat belt, died instantly.
Butler joined the Evans Crossroads Department 1991, and was appointed its chief in January 2011. He had been president of the Robeson County Fireman’s Association since 2006.
“He was a very good person. He had a lot of friends, he was very knowledgeable in the fire service,” said Robeson County Fire Marshal Charles Britt, who knew Butler for 20 years. “He was real proud of his fire department and the Robeson County Firemen’s Association.”
Britt said Butler was a “hard worker” who spent a lot of time at the department.
“It’s my understanding that he was out there all day Saturday working on equipment and the station,” Britt 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.
Flags at the fire department and the Robeson County Emergency Management Services office were flown at half-staff Monday.
Larry Gales, secretary of the fireman’s association, said Butler was an “outgoing person” who never met a stranger.
“He was concerned about his community, wanted to help his community,” Gales said. “That’s probably the one reason he became a volunteer fireman. He loved the fire service.”
Butler, who was employed by Campbell’s Soup, leaves behind a wife, three children and three grandchildren. His two sons are both members of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department. One of the sons was on the scene of the accident Butler was responding to.
“Sam always liked to joke. He was a fun person to be around,” Gales said. “I think that’s what he’ll be remembered for, that and his love for the fire service.”
No information was available on the accident that Butler was responding to.
A spokesman for the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Association said the association is providing assistance, including grief counselors, to the department, and will be assisting in the funeral.
Funeral plans will be announced by Richard Boles Funeral Service in Laurinburg.