Two Onslow County emergency responders are remembered

ONSLOW COUNTY -- It will be a week of sadness for firefighters and police officers across the region as they mourn the loss of two of their own.

An Onslow County Sheriff's Deputy and firefighter died Saturday morning after a tractor trailer hit them head-on.

According to troopers, Sheriff's Deputy Steve Boehm, 36, and Verona firefighter Gene Thomas, 52, responded to an accident on Highway 17 around 5:00 Saturday morning near the Dixon Middle School.

While the men were standing outside their vehicles, an 18-wheeler drove by, hitting them both.

The driver of the truck, Robert Lee Kornegay of Fayetteville, said he was unable to see Boehm and Thomas because of the limited visibility from the dense smoke coming from a range fire at Camp Lejeune.

Kornegay has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, and troopers believe the accident was avoidable.

Monday, Nicole Thomas placed flowers at the memorial to her father along Highway 17.  This year, she didn't get to spend Father's Day with him.

"I love my daddy so much. This is gonna be so hard, and I know my family is gonna get through this tough time. It's a hard time," said Nicole.

Gene Thomas was a volunteer firefighter in Verona.  He and Sheriff's Deputy Steve Boehm were killed over the weekend as the responded to an accident.

The air is clear now, but that wasn't the case Saturday morning when dense smoke set off the chain of events that led to this tragedy.

According to Sheriff Ed Brown, at least seven vehicles were involved in three separate accidents, that ended with the deaths of two emergency responders.

At the Verona Volunteer Fire Department, a memorial was made on a fire truck, showing Gene during his nearly 30 years with the department.

On the marquee is a show of support to the two families.

Inside the Sheriff's Department it looks like any other day, but the mood is very somber as co-workers remember the deputy who wanted to work in law enforcement from a very early age.

"Imagine you have a balloon blew up to it's max - that's what we felt like on Friday.  Then on Saturday the incident was like a needle popping that balloon," said Sheriff Brown.

The sadness will continue through the week as the memorial services and funerals begin for deputy Steve Boehm and for firefighter Gene Thomas.

Funeral services will be held for Thomas at 11:00, Tuesday morning at the Jones Funeral Home in Jacksonville.

A memorial service will be held for Deputy Boehm, Wednesday morning at 11:00 in his hometown of White Oak.

Reported by Max Winitz and Sarah Warlick