Retired assistant fire chief dies in head-on collision in Pender County

Many remember retired firefighter who died in car wreck

ROCKY POINT, N.C. (WECT) - Mike Garner, former assistant fire chief at Seagate who retired from the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department, died in a head-on collision on Highway 210 near Rocky Point on Tuesday.

According to State Highway Patrol, 67-year-old Michael Lee Garner of New Hanover County was traveling west on NC 210 in a pick-up truck around noon when his vehicle crossed the center line and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer that was headed east.

Garner died at the scene of the crash, according to investigators. The driver of the tractor-trailer was reported to be OK.

A former colleague, Sammy Flowers, said Garner was with the Seagate Fire Department for years when they had a volunteer department; however, Wrightsville Beach Fire Department (WBFD) was his last place of work.

Sterling Powell, another former colleague, confirmed Garner worked at WBFD after retiring from DuPont. Garner had recently retired from WBFD. He was 67.

The sirens that rang out Tuesday afternoon in downtown Wilmington didn’t signal a fire.

First responders across the area were instead involved in a procession, escorting one of their very own to a funeral home.

“This was just part of his home — there’s no telling the years of service, the hours of service he put into this community,” said Captain Matt Holland of the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department.

Garner’s boots, helmet and jacket now sit on a makeshift memorial on a ladder truck flying the American flag outside the department.

Captain Holland knew him well. Garner served under him as a lieutenant at Wrightsville Beach Fire Department for a decade.

“I was devastated, heartbroken. It’s just a numb feeling now, you know,” Holland said of the loss of his dear friend.

Before his death, Garner had retired from Wrightsvile Beach Fire, but according to Holland, the family bonds that come with selfless service in the fire department are forever. As enduring and strong as Garner’s love for his family and his passion for serving others.

“We never know. Life can be gone in the flash of an eye just — love those around you,” said Holland.

Leaders in the department say a memorial service is planned at the fire department on Friday at 11 a.m. so all the departments he served can honor his life together.

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