Wash. firefighter's body escorted home
James Wildman, 23, was killed after his truck veered off the road and crashed into a river over the weekend
By Donald W. Meyers
PROSSER, Wash. — As one friend put it, Dylan Bolt and James Wildman were not “normal” young people.
“You don’t find kids like that anymore,” said Darren Dodgson, owner of Bern’s Tavern in Prosser. “They weren’t entitled. They were givers.”
Others also remembered the men as hard workers, both on the athletic fields of Prosser High School and in their career paths as a U.S. Marine and a firefighter.
Bolt, 25, and Wildman, 23, were killed Saturday evening when the pickup Wildman was driving left U.S. Highway 12 and landed on its roof in the Naches River.
The crash is still under investigation, but the Washington State Patrol believes the winter storm that had moved into the Valley Saturday night contributed to the truck losing control on the snow-covered highway, said Sgt. Justin Destito.
The men’s deaths shook up friends, former coaches and others, who remember them as giving it their all in whatever they did, as well as always having a flock of friends around them.
“It’s that ‘It’ factor,” recalled Mike Rodriguez, the assistant track coach at Prosser High who coached Wildman on the relay and sprints. “They both had it.”
Both men were athletes in their high school days, playing football for the Mustangs, as well as participating in track events.
Bolt was a starting sophomore defensive back on the Mustangs when the team won the state title in 2007, recalled Corey Ingvalson, the team’s current head coach and the defensive back/special teams coach in 2007.
Ingvalson credited Bolt’s on-field performance and work ethic to his upbringing. Bolt’s father, Steven, coached Grid Kids football in Prosser, and was known for producing disciplined players.
Bolt “was the epitome of a coach’s son,” Ingvalson recalled.
When the Mustangs won the state title last year, with Bolt’s younger brother Tanner as quarterback, Bolt was there wearing his shirt from the 2007 title game, Ingvalson recalled, closing a circle as well as showing his loyalty to the team.
Wildman also played football for the Mustangs, and ran track, shining in the relay.
Rodriguez, the track coach, recalled Wildman as someone who gave everything he had on the field for the benefit of the team.
“James is one of those young men, if I had to pick a relay, he would be one of them.” Rodriguez recalled. “Not because he was the fastest, but because he gave 100 percent.”
Wildman, Rodriguez recalled, would always put the team ahead of himself, and would not complain — at least not that Rodriguez ever heard. He recalled one incident where he had to take Wildman off a relay team, and instead of pouting about his lost spot, Wildman worked his way back onto the track.
Bolt, grandson of actor and former Marine R. Lee Ermey, joined the Marine Corps in 2011, where in an interview with a military journalist, said he enlisted because he always strived to do his best. He later worked as an electrician with Stegeman Electric.
Wildman was working toward becoming a career firefighter, volunteering with the West Benton Fire and Rescue for the past two years, after being a firefighter in Walla Walla, said Doug Merritt, West Benton fire chief.
“There is no better thing to say about a firefighter than that I would fight a fire anytime with him,” Merritt said.
Wildman, he recalled, was getting as much training and experience as he could, even getting hired on as a seasonal firefighter last year.
The selflessness he demonstrated on the relay served him well in the fire department, Merritt said.
“He understood the importance of being successful as a group, rather than as individuals,” Merritt said.
And on Monday, Wildman’s fellow firefighters showed their support for him and his family. Forming a double column at the back door of the Yakima County Coroner’s office, West Benton firefighters, along with firefighters from Yakima, Naches and the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Center, saluted as Wildman’s body, his helmet, jacket and gloves laid on top of the blanket covering him, was wheeled out and placed in the back of a hearse for the drive back to Prosser.
Along the highway, at overpasses between Yakima and Prosser, firefighters from different agencies stood as the Benton County firefighters, escorted by the State Patrol, took him home.
“It was impressive,” Merritt said of the support.