Firefighter killed by suspected drunk driver while clearing debris from road

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A volunteer firefighter was killed after being hit by a suspected drunk driver while clearing debris from a road in Morganton Sunday night, officials say.

According to a spokesperson with the Triple Community Fire Department, firefighters were dispatched to a tree that was blocking the eastbound and part of the westbound lanes of Highway 70 east near the Drexel intersection just before midnight. 

A driver in a pick-up truck heading eastbound on Highway 70 struck 40-year-old Jason Keith Hensley, who was a firefighter with the Triple Community Fire Department. Hensley was killed "instantly on impact," officials say.

"We had firefighters that seen things last night that they’ll remember for the rest of their life," Joshua Smith, Assistant Fire Chief at the Triple Community Fire Department, said.

RELATED: Multiple reports of tornados in NC counties, heavy damage from Sunday storms

Smith believes Hensley is the first firefighter to die in the line of duty in the fire department's history.

Hensley had his reflective gear on and all red lights were activated on all emergency vehicles. 

A processional for Hensley will take place Tuesday at 1 p.m. from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to Heritage Funeral Home in Valdese.

The driver of the pick-up truck, 58-year-old Randall Stewart, of Morganton, is charged with DWI, operating without a license, reckless driving, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a seatbelt violation, according to North Carolina State Highway Patrol.  

Stewart was officially arrested on Tuesday. He is facing an additional felony charge of death by motor vehicle. He is being held on $25,000 secured bond.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Burke County Sunday. A tornado was confirmed to have touched down southeast of Morganton in Burke County.