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home : news : news August 15, 2018

10/12/2017 5:24:00 AM
Funeral Friday For Fallen Firefighter
Jason Keith Hensley
Jason Keith Hensley

Photo Courtesy Burke County Sheriff's Office

Photo Courtesy Burke County Sheriff's Office

Jason Keith Hensley (1977 - 2017)

MORGANTON, N.C. - Jason Keith Hensley, 40, of Morganton, died Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.

Jason was born April 25, 1977, in Burke County, the son of Nelson and Cornelia Talent Hensley. He was an auto mechanic, a proud and dedicated volunteer with the Triple Community Fire Department and enjoyed helping others any time there was a need.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Lydia Susan Rayburn Hensley of the home; two sons, Zackary Keith Hensley and Jordan Tyler Hensley both of the home; mother, Cornelia Tallent Hensley of Icard ; and father, Nelson Hensley of Tennessee. Also surviving are a brother, Ricky Lee Hensley and wife, Barbie of Hickory; and a number of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

A service of celebration for Jason Keith Hensley will be held at 11 AM Friday, Oct. 13th, in the Drexel First Baptist Church with the Rev. Leonard Lindsey officiating. Interment will follow in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Valdese, with the Rev. Dana A. McKim, N.C. Fallen Fire Fighters Chaplain officiating.

The family will receive friends Thursday, Oct. 12, from 4 to 8 PM at Heritage Funeral Service, Valdese, where the body will remain until placed in the church one hour prior to the services.

An online guestbook and obituary is available at

Heritage Funeral Service and Crematory of Valdese, N.C. is serving the Hensley family.

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

The funeral will be held Friday (Oct. 13th) at 11 AM at the First Baptist Church of Drexel for a firefighter who was killed Sunday night by an alleged drunk driver.

Fourty-year-old Jason Keith Hensley was working with others from the Triple Community Fire Department in Drexel trying to clear debris from US 70 east of Morganton when he was struck by a pickup truck driven by Randall Hugh Stewart.

Fifty-eight-year-old Stewart had an appearance in district court Wednesday and was bound over to Superior Court on a charge of felony death by vehicle. That case is set for trial November 1st.

Stewart was also charged from an earlier incident with felony possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was on probation from a conviction on another drug charge when the Sunday night incident occurred.

Hensley was killed instantly when struck by Stewart's truck. Stewart was taken to the hospital and that’s where troopers arrested him when he was released Tuesday.

Stewart claimed he was tired and heading home to go to sleep. He said that while he saw the lights of the emergency vehicles, he did not see Hensley.

“It was not my fault,” he said. "I wasn’t high, I don’t have a problem with drugs; I haven’t been high in days.” Later he admitted “Earlier in the day I smoked a joint.”

Stewart remains in jail under a $75,000 bond.

Firefighters including Hensley were dispatched to a tree that was blocking Highway 70 near the Drexel intersection just before midnight Sunday. Officers said Hensley and another firefighter were wearing reflective vests and standing next to a firetruck that had emergency lights flashing when Stewart plowed into Hensley. After hitting Hensley, Stewart's vehicle struck Hensley’s vehicle and then the firetruck.

A procession was held Tuesday as Hensley's body, which had been taken to Winston-Salem for an autopsy, was brought back to Burke County.

People including firefighters gathered at the overpasses on Interstate 40 to pay respects to the fallen firefighter.

The downed tree on US 70 was part of the damage from storms Sunday afternoon and evening that included tornadoes in Cleveland, Burke and Caldwell counties. A storm was also responsible for knocking out power to half the city of Lincolnton for much of the day Monday.

The worst of the storm damage was in Hudson. Several homes there were demolished by the storm. The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at South Caldwell High School. By the end of day Tuesday, the Red Cross had provided 140 meals, 200 snacks, and nearly 200 bulk items such as work gloves, tarps and rakes as the cleanup began.

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