Water truck driver died serving others

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Marshall County man, who's delivered water to residents without a source during drought or when springs and wells go dry, died Monday while on his route, according to Lewisburg and county officials.

Buford Delwin Lee, 66, of 2722 Franklin Pike in the Berlin Community, had been delivering water to a woman's home on Hatchett Hollow Road, according to Bill Reuter, an assistant director of the Marshall County Emergency Medical Service.

Marshall County's Emergency Management Agency has a truck with a large water tank on its frame. The water is hauled to fires to increase supplies for pump trucks. It's also been the source of water for farmers and residents without water service.

Lee was found by Alison Taylor, a nurse who works at night and sleeps during the day.

Monday afternoon, the EMA office called, so she looked around and saw the truck at a tree, Taylor said.

"It had evidently been there a long time," Taylor said. "The motor was still going. The tire was spinning" and had dug a rut in the dirt.

"I looked up the road, saw him and called EMA," Taylor said. She saw that he'd chocked tires, but it appeared as though the truck rolled over him.

"It's shocking," said the registered nurse who found him without a pulse. "It looked like it was quick. "There was a lot of weight. The truck was still full of water. I don't know how it happened. He didn't park it the way he normally would."

"He was a really sweet man," Taylor said. "He had been delivering water here for years."

She lives on top of a hill with a spring, but her well went dry and her spring dried up.

The EMS was called by the EMA about 3 p.m., Reuter said. Lee was found out of the water truck on a long driveway. Some of the hose had been pulled from the truck. It wasn't difficult to see that the truck had rolled some distance down hill toward the house. Before the driverless truck got to the house, it went off one side of the driveway and was stopped by a tree.

There had been speculation about whether the truck's brakes failed, but Reuter, who's also an investigator for the medical examiner, said on Monday night he didn't know the results of Sheriff's Detective Bart Fagan's investigation.

Measurements were taken at the driveway, Reuter said. Lee was transported from the scene. At dusk Monday, a trip to Nashville was planned so an autopsy could be performed on Tuesday.

Monday night, Marshall County Fire Chiefs met at the Emergency Management Agency office where the chiefs and firefighters heard from County Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the Budget Committee, explain funding issues.

Lee was remembered as one who served his fellow man. EMA staffers were distraught and Will Walker was at the EMA office where he said Lee may have been one cog in a big wheel of public services, but he worked to make life better for county residents.

Later at the EMS office, Lewisburg Fire Chief Larry Williams said he'd worked with Lee for "several years," and remembered him as "a good, every day kind of man; always a joy to work with...

"We'd get to picking and aggravating and he'd be grinning," Williams said. "There'll never be another one like that."

Lee drove the water truck smoothly, Lewisburg's fire chief said.

EMA Director Bob Hopkins said Lee was a "revered employee."

Lee was a volunteer firefighter with the Berlin Fire Department for nearly 20 years, Hopkins said.