By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A Curry County man died in a head-on collision with a Clovis fire truck Sunday afternoon northwest of town.
State police said low visibility due to smoke from a major grass fire and a narrow county road may have contributed to the accident, which took the life of 64-year-old LaRoy Lockmiller.
Clovis Fire Department’s Robert Seno was driving the fire truck west on Curry Road 18 when the collision happened, state police said. Three fire personnel were in the truck, which was responding to the fire, but none were hurt, police said.
State patrolman Lance Bateman, who investigated the accident, said when a public sector vehicle is involved in a fatal accident, many times the state police handle the investigation.
“A lot of times state police will be called in, and we investigate it just like any other crash,” he said, “(and look at) what the factors were of the accident.”
According to preliminary investigations and interviews, due to the high levels of smoke in the area, fire personnel didn’t see Lockmiller’s vehicle until just before the accident, Bateman said. At this time, no determination of fault has been made, Bateman said.
The fire began about 2:30 p.m. Sunday in a wheat field near the intersection of Curry Road 17 and Curry Road X. Before extinguished, the fire burned 640 acres, said Bill Baca of the Clovis Fire Department.
Officials said the land that burned belongs to Danny Fish, and the fire apparently began when something heated up on a combine and sparked the flame in the wheat field. Fish could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
It wasn’t clear in the early stages of the investigation if Lockmiller’s GMC truck was moving at the time of the accident, police said.
Lockmiller’s family was gathering together Sunday night, mourning his loss.
“My dad was a great man. He loved this family. He loved and honored his wife. He loved us kids unconditionally,” said daughter Tammy Northcutt. “My dad knew the lord and loved his family more than anything.”
He also loved farming, she said, and had lived on the farm for many years. She said her father was aware of the grass fire on the neighboring plot, and went out to survey the fire and help his neighbor. State police said Lockmiller owned the land just north of the land that burned.
Northcutt said she and her family don’t know if her father’s vehicle was moving when the crash occurred.
Six fire engines from multiple departments responded to the grass fire, which took about two hours to contain and put out, Baca said. Those engines came from Clovis, Broadview, Field and Melrose.
Additionally, the Cannon Air Force Base fire department received a request for assistance at 2:29 p.m, said Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon public affairs. They dispatched one engine, one support vehicle and four firefighters to assist in squelching the flame.
No one was hurt in the fire, said Baca, however there was damage to the combine in the wheat field.