WATERLOO — Assistant Waterloo Fire Chief Nick Kavich said working a fatal accident is hard enough, but when the victim is connected with members of the fire department, it makes it even more difficult.
That was the case Wednesday night.
“When we got to wreck and we found out who the victim was ... he was a brother to one of our firefighters and a lot of us knew him,” Kavich said. “It was really tough.”
James Hatchett, 37, 363 Lauderdale 106, Florence, died from injuries sustained in a one-car accident, state troopers said.
Members of Waterloo and Central volunteer fire departments were called to the accident on Alabama 20 before 9 p.m. Wednesday. Troopers said the crash occurred 16 miles north of Florence and was reported at 8:45 p.m.
Kavich said Hatchett lived with his mother, and he believed Hatchett was heading home when the accident occurred.
Hatchett was pronounced dead at the scene by Lauderdale County Coroner Andy High.
Troopers said Hatchett was driving a 1996 Ford Explorer that left the roadway and struck a tree. Emergency crews at the scene said it appeared Hatchett was traveling north. According to markings and evidence at the scene, it appeared the vehicle ran off the east side of the road, crossed the roadway, and went off the west side before hitting a large pine tree.
The tree was only short distance off the roadway. Authorities said the SUV ran over a few smaller saplings before slamming into the large tree. The impact broke the top of the tree, officials said.
Kavich said he went to school with Hatchett and had known him for years.
“His family moved here from Texas some time in the late 1980s,” Kavich said. “He was a couple of years older than I was, but we knew each other.
“I know it’s hard on the family losing a loved one. He was a good guy, and I really hate it for his family and our department, because we’re all close.”
It was the third traffic fatality this year in northwest Alabama and the southern Tennessee counties of Wayne and Lawrence.
According to state records, there have been 43 fatalities this year, compared to 45 during the same time in 2012.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.