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Off-Duty Ga. Firefighter-EMT Dies in Crash

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An off-duty DeKalb County firefighter died in a crash Thursday night, officials said.

DeKalb County Fire Rescue Chief Darnell D. Fullum said in a Facebook post that recent fire academy graduate Ethan Wootton, 19, died in Gwinnett County about 11:50 p.m. Thursday.

Describing the death as a "tragic and untimely passing," Fullum said Wootton was part of the latest class of 49 firefighters who graduated from the fire academy on Jan. 10.

"Everyone at the station said he was eager to learn, hardworking," said DeKalb fire spokesman Capt. Dion Bentley, who had met Wootton. "He was liked by many."

Wootton, who lived in Lawrenceville, was the passenger in a Toyota Avalon on Stone Mountain Highway when the driver, 20-year-old Joshua Chi, "lost control" while changing lanes, Gwinnett County police said in a statement.

The Toyota, traveling east, crossed over the median and collided with a Lexus traveling west, police said. The drivers of the two cars were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Wootton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators said alcohol was not a factor in the crash, but "it is believed that the weather and road conditions were a contributing factor," the statement said.

"The element of speed is also being investigated," police said. "This case will require further investigation before determining if any charges will be filed."

Bentley said the death was tough on Wootton's crew, who only got to work with him for less than two months.
"They were shocked, and they're taking it very hard," he said.

As a rookie, Wootton rode the tailboard of the firetruck, while still "learning his job on how to take care of patients, how to fight fires, learning his role," Bentley said.

He joined the fire department already having his EMT certification.

Wootton was the second metro Atlanta firefighter who died in a crash Thursday. Rockdale County firefighter Robert Alexander Sewell III was killed while driving to work on wet roads in the Conyers area, the department said.

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