He was a first responder and hero to the end. Lake Mills Fire Department Capt. Chris Truman was struck and killed on New Year’s Eve, by a suspected drunk driver while helping a motorist after a crash on the Beltline in Monona.
The Monona Police Department said a vehicle crashed traveling eastbound on Highway 12 Monday at 6:51 p.m. A second car driven by Truman stopped to assist at the scene of the first crash. Truman was then struck by a third vehicle before officers arrived to help with the initial crash.
Truman suffered serious injuries and was taken to an area hospital, where he died shortly after arrival, according to a press release.
Truman served on the Lake Mills Fire Department for 13 years and before that served on the Cambridge Fire Department.
Captain Mark Bentheimer of the Lake Mills Fire Department said what happened shows the kind of person Truman was.
“No matter who needed the help he was always the first one to step forward and provide that assistance. Whether it was a formal response out of the station here or as it was a few days ago on the side of the road.”
Truman provided many firefighters with mentorship and was a friend to everyone on the department and around town.
Police Chief Mick Selck has been friends with Truman since he moved to town. He worked as a maintenance person for the City of Lake Mills and was in the same office as Selck.
“He was coming to my house that night when we got the call,” Selck said. “It’s been difficult…he worked very hard to be a diligent fire captain and serve his community. I knew him as a person and a friend and he stood behind a wonderful woman, Amber and tried his best to be a father figure to her children. He was an amazing friend.”
“The fact that he died helping someone means a lot to me because it exemplifies who he was and what he was about.”
“He was a good man,” Selck said.
Richard Heinz, former fire chief said Truman was always helping.
“He always cared about how everyone felt and how they were doing.”
“He was more than a fireman. He was a great person.”
Acting Fire Chief Todd Yandre said Truman was a compassionate fireman.
“He was the last person on the truck. He wouldn’t leave until that person felt comfortable and safe.”
Dave Sobek, chaplin for the department said Truman didn’t do anything halfway.
“If he was going to do it he went all in,” he said.
Sobek officiated Truman’s funeral service on Sunday.
“It’s like someone let the air out of us. We just feel empty, but we will go on,” Sobek said.
The Lake Mills Fire Department posted the following note on Facebook last week from the family of the woman who Truman stopped to help on the Beltline, “I know that all of you are grieving. I don’t know if this will help but your captain saved my daughter’s life last night. My daughter had lost control of the car and skidded. She got out of her car and was afraid and overwhelmed. He saw her and pulled behind her with his lights on. He came out of his car and told her to get back into her car. He pulled the bumper that was hanging off and then went to her window and told her he would follow her off the Beltline to safety. It was at this point that the driver hit him. My heart is in so much pain for all of you. He is my hero. Please let his wife/family know he is forever our angel. I’m just so very sorry.”
Samuel Patrick Cremers, 28, of Dodgeville has been released on a $5,000 signature bond while he awaits formal charges in the case on suspicion of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
According to his lawyer, Cremers had a blood alcohol level of 0.079, just short of the 0.08 legal limit for driving in Wisconsin. Police are waiting on Cremer’s blood test from that night to make a recommendation for formal charges.
The Wisconsin State Patrol was called to assist with the crash reconstruction, police said.
Roads were slippery Dec. 31 due to several inches of falling snow. Highway 12 was closed until about 10:15 p.m., police reported.
Truman served in the military and was an avid bass fisherman and is being remembered all across Lake Mills from former employer Watson Ace Hardware to his family and friends in the angling world.
Truman’s significant other Amber Turfle thanked well-wishers on her Facebook page Tuesday saying, “He died doing what he loved, helping others. He always stopped to help no matter what or where we were going,” she wrote. Truman also leaves behind three young adult step-children.The Lake Mills Fire Department plans to honor Truman at their upcoming spaghetti dinner.