Around 1,000 attend funeral for Bladen County deputy killed on the job
BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Around 1,000 people attended the funeral of a deputy from Bladen County Wednesday who died in a car crash while responding to an assault with a deadly weapon call Friday night.
Agencies from Wilmington to Charlotte and everywhere in between gathered to say goodbye to the man who died wearing the badge at Hickory Grove Baptist Church's Family Life Center, even if they never got the chance to say hello.
According to the Bladen County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Dewayne Charles Hester, 39, was in his patrol car at the time of the crash.
According to officials, the crash took place on NC 87 E and Allen Priest Road just before 11 p.m. No other details of the accident have been released, but it's clear that the death of Hester hit people hard both near and far.
"Law enforcement, like you've heard, is a big family," said one fellow law enforcement member at the funeral. "Even if we don't know people on a personal level, we are all doing the same job and when someone dies it affects everyone."
No matter how much time goes by, Deputy Hester's sacrifice and dedication will be remembered forever.
"It does not matter if we never knew him," said another law enforcement official. "It does not matter. They show us the support, and we are doing the same thing with the local community here."
A visitation was held Tuesday night.
Word of the crash spread fast in the community and it has left many locals who knew him shocked that it happened.
"He had a beautiful home, he was a nice guy in the community. He was what they called a church going man," said Clyde Britt.
Like many other people, Clyde and Bessie Britt decided to drive by the scene of the crash to see what the area looked like and to pay their respects.
"We always saw him when we were in Elizabethtown. He would always speak to us if we were out eating somewhere. He would come up and talk to us," Bessie said.
You can see skid marks in the road leading up to a tree where witnesses say the police car flipped and landed on its side. The tree is missing most of the bark around the trunk and someone left flowers and a note at the site.
"He hit the ditch and I could hear the crash and it was just awful. Just a high rate of speed, rolling over and hitting the tree," said Reed Allen.
Allen lives across the street from where the crash happened. He said he has seen several fatal crashes in the area in the past year and he blames speed and a sharp curve in the road for those crashes.
He said the state is planning to change the road from two lanes to four lanes and says something needs to be done to redesign the road to get rid of the sharp curve.
"When you look at this history of the accidents that have been here and the speed that people drive and they're only going to drive faster when it's four lanes," Allen said.
Hester worked for the sheriff's office for a little more than a year. Before working for the sheriff's office, Hester worked as a police officer for four years with the Elizabethtown Police Department.
The sheriff said Hester is the type of guy who would give you the shirt of his back.
Hester is survived by his wife and two children.
The last death in the line of duty for the Bladen County Sheriff's Office was 11 years ago when Jamie Collins also died in a car accident.
Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.