UPDATE (11:22 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4): The community in Braxton County continues to mourn the loss of 24-year-old John Forbush, a firefighter who died in the line of duty while trying to rescue a mother and her child.
There was a procession to bring him home from Charleston on Wednesday morning.
Multiple first responder agencies helped escort John Forbush back to his hometown of Gassaway.
It takes about an hour on I-79 to get from Charleston to Gassaway, and at almost every intersection, there were first responders lined up viewing the procession and paying their respects. Even DOH workers paused their work as strangers all lined up to honor Forbush.
13 News reporter Erin Noon spoke with Forbush’s fiancé Amber who told her that she wants to remember John as a hard worker and a great father to their daughter.
Visitation and funeral arrangements for Forbush have not officially been released yet, but we do know that he is back in his home county and currently resting at the Richard Roach Funeral Home.
BRAXTON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The body of a firefighter who died during a water rescue will be escorted back to Braxton County Wednesday morning.
According to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office, an escort of first responders will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 3, 2022, to escort the body of Gassaway Volunteer Firefighter John D. Forbush from the Charleston Mortuary to Braxton County. WVSFMO Public Information Officer Tim Rock says the escort will leave the mortuary at 9 a.m.
Rock also says the Braxton Emergency manager is coordinating to have first responder tributes at most of the overpasses along I-79.
Forbush, 24, was off-duty when he heard the initial dispatch call of a vehicle into the Elk River on Sunday, May 1. He was working less than a mile away and responded to the scene. His family tells 13 News that he was an organ donor.
Authorities say Forbush communicated on his radio that the victims appeared to be trapped inside the vehicle. He then jumped into the river to attempt to rescue them. He was unable to free the victims from the vehicle, and he lost his own life in the process.
The occupants of the vehicle also died in the crash. They were identified as 42-year-old Latonya Bell, of Cleveland, Ohio, and her daughter 8-year-old Havana Pipkins.
Authorities said the crash was later ruled to be a murder-suicide on Monday, May 2, after surveillance video from the Braxton County Senior Citizens Center showed Bell driving in the senior center’s parking lot before steering the car into the river.
In a statement, Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Robert Bailey said the following:
John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need. He proudly served the Gassaway community for 4 years as a volunteer firefighter. His service to the community will forever be remembered. Summersville Fire Department, from Nicholas County, also responded to the scene with Dive Rescue resources. Fire departments from around the region will continue to provide resources and support to the Gassaway VFD and the citizens of Braxton County.CHIEF DEPUTY STATE FIRE MARSHAL ROBERT BAILEY