Conway is mourning the loss of firefighter Christopher Gene Ray, who was killed in what the fire chief described as a “tragic accident” Sunday as his truck responded to a house fire just blocks from the Ninth Avenue station.
Ray fell from the back of a fire engine and was then struck as it reversed down a nearby street from the Hickory Circle blaze, where firefighters ran hoses from the closest hydrant to the burning house.
Preliminary autopsy results revealed multiple traumatic injuries from being struck by a fire engine, Tony Hendrick, Horry County deputy coroner, said Monday.
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Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick called it a “tragic accident” during a news conference Monday, but did not give any new details citing the ongoing investigation by South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team.
“Firefighter Ray was a husband, son and friend,” Chief Hendrick said. “We ask that you respect the family’s request for privacy at this time.”
Firefighters declined to discuss the man they worked with, who served the department for six years, citing the wishes of the family.
“The family asked us to hold off for a day or so, they needed time and our guys need time also,” said Battalion Chief Brian Van Aernem with Horry County Fire-Rescue.
Earlier in the day Monday, firefighters stayed busy with the mundane, everyday tasks that keeps their firehouse operating — rolling hoses, and loading and polishing trucks, while some gathered quietly in small groups.
“It’s just starting to set in for these guys,” Van Aernem said. “But, they’ll get through it. There’s strength enough in these guys.”
The American flag flew at half-staff outside the Conway station, where firefighters from Myrtle Beach gathered to stand in for the Conway fire house during the news conference, and just minutes before it began, responded to a fire alarm.
This is a very sad day in the City of Conway, but because we are family, we will get through this together.
Conway Mayor Barbara Jo Blain-Bellamy
Chief Hendrick said Conway residents will likely see first responders from other departments during the next few days.
“This is a very sad day in the City of Conway, but because we are family, we will get through this together,” said Conway Mayor Barbara Jo Blain-Bellamy.
Ray, of the Green Sea community of Horry County, leaves behind a wife and two children ages 14 and 4.
Ray joined the Conway Fire Department as a full-time member after graduating from a local firefighter training academy in 2010. He was honored for serving five years with the department in March 2015 and served on a committee with his fellow firefighters to restore an antique fire engine that was unveiled in September.
Grief counselors were on hand from the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association to assist the family and firefighters.
“The community has given a wonderful outpouring of love to the family and to the City of Conway, and for that we are immensely grateful,” Blain-Bellamy said.
“Please keep this family in your prayers and the City of Conway, as we heal through this process,” Blain-Bellamy said.
Ray was also a volunteer with Horry County Fire Rescue. Horry County and North Myrtle Beach firefighters will be on duty during Ray’s funeral so that Conway firefighters can attend the services.
Christopher Gene Ray’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Beach Church, 557 George Bishop Parkway, in Myrtle Beach. Visitation is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Goldfinch Conway Chapel.
Ray’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Beach Church, 557 George Bishop Parkway, in Myrtle Beach. Visitation is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Goldfinch Conway Chapel.
The fire gutted the house on Hickory Circle, but no injuries inside the home were reported.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offered additional manpower to the department’s arson team to investigate the cause of the fire.