King firefighter hit by minivan at scene of wreck


Lt. Les Collins

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- A King volunteer firefighter getting ready to leave the scene of a tractor-trailer wreck was hit by a minivan Monday morning.

Lt. Les Collins, who has served in the department for nearly 15 years, was hit on Highway 52 north near mile marker 120 shortly after 5 a.m., according to Fire Chief Steven Roberson.

Collins was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he is in stable condition. He several bumps and bruises, severe road rash and severe swelling.

Doctors haven't found any broken bones found so far, but they are waiting for some of the swelling to go down before checking again.

Collins was heading to a King Fire Department car to leave the scene when a minivan drove through a barricade meant to divert traffic onto the Westinghouse Road exit ramp, Roberson said.

The minivan, traveling more than 60 mph, hit the car that Collins was going to get into, troopers said.

"He saw the gentleman come through the barricade. He was running and trying to get away, but he couldn't make it in time," Roberson said.

The minivan hit Collins so hard that it knocked him onto the windshield, troopers said. Both cars slid about 100 feet before stopping, troopers said.

However Roberson said the fire department car likely saved Collins' life.

"The car was very much a blessing, and we do train to put objects such as fire trucks in the path so that they absorb the hit and, hopefully, protect us," Roberson said. "We're just very thankful that this is the outcome we got. He is with us still and in very good spirits and overall very good medical condition considering everything that has happened to him."

The driver of the minivan, William Blythe, of Charlotte, has been charged with careless and reckless driving. Blythe told investigators he thought it was a routine traffic stop and never saw the barricade, troopers said.

Blythe, who said he was going to work at the time, wasn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol, troopers said.

The section of highway had been closed since around 1:50 a.m., when a tractor-trailer overturned, causing a fuel spill.

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