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Bridge dedicated in honor of fallen W.Va. firefighter

William VanGilder was aboard a fire truck that lost control, ran off the roadway into a field and then rolled over, causing him to be ejected


By Kaitlyn Neff
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A bridge at Bunner Ridge was dedicated Saturday in honor of the late William “Bill” R. VanGilder, who was an active member of the Bunner Ridge Volunteer Fire Department when he died in the line of duty.

On April 4, 1986, the Bunner Ridge Volunteer Fire Department along with the Marion County Rescue Squad (Station 20) and Squad 29 (Heavy Rescue) were dispatched to an accident in Marion County where a man was entrapped by a piece of heavy farm machinery.

While in route to the scene, VanGilder was aboard a fire truck that lost control, ran off the roadway into a field and then rolled over, causing him to be ejected. The fire truck then rolled on top of VanGilder, crushing him to death.

VanGilder was the son of Clyde and Davily Corbin VanGilder. VanGilder’s wife at that time, Debbie Short, was an active member of the Bunner Ridge Volunteer Fire Department and with the Marion County Rescue Squad, where she was also on scene on that day in April.

She attended the dedication ceremony on Saturday.

“When they told me they were dedicating the bridge, I told them I was honored to have been married to Bill for 15 years, and this is a great memory for him,” Short said. “After 31 years since his death, it is still a great honor. Not very many people have bridges named in their honor. As people cross over the bridge and read his name, they will wonder why this bridge was dedicated in his memory and what he did to deserve it. I hope that they can research it and find out that he was killed in the line of duty.”

VanGilder has been memorialized at both the West Virginia Fallen Fighter Memorial in Charleston and the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, which are memorials dedicated to firefighters who have lost their lives while in the line of duty serving their communities.

“My husband was not for the big show or anything,” Short said. “He would have said, ‘I don’t want any of this.’ He was just a very humble person, but well-deserving of it.”

The proclamation states, “It is a fitting tribute to Mr. VanGilder and his unselfish heroism to name this bridge for him; therefore, be it Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia: that the Division of Highways is hereby requested to name bridge number SS-25-33-3.93, carrying County Route 33 over Piney Creek in Marion County, the William ‘Bill’ R. VanGilder Memorial Bridge.”

“This is all about Bill. I was just lucky enough to be married to him. He is deserving of this in my eyes,” Short said.

Copyright 2017Times West Virginian

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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