TERRELL –– Firefighters from as far as Houston attended a funeral service for firefighter William Tanksley, who was killed last week by a driver who lost control on an icy patch of a bridge over Interstate 20.
The 40-year-old’s body arrived at the Terrell Performing Arts Center Monday morning and was carried inside with honors.
Tanksley was killed on February 10 responding to an accident on Spur 408 over Interstate 20. Treacherous road conditions caused four vehicle-related deaths, including the firefighter. A car lost control on a patch of ice and hit Tanksley, who then fell 56 feet onto the freeway, according to a police report. He died on the road.
At the service on Monday, Tanksley’s young son clutched his father’s helmet. A close childhood friend spoke about growing up with the first responder, who was a star pitcher and athlete in Kemp.
“He liked the idea of being in charge and coming to the rescue. He didn’t seek glory. He shunned the limelight, actually. And yet he always found himself in the limelight. He was a hero a long time before this week,” said Gary Freeman, a family friend. “He was always the one who hit the game-winning shot, threw the game-winning touchdown, threw that last strike. He was the one that you could count on in the clutch.”
Tanksley was buried at Restland Cemetery in Dallas. A procession with almost 70 fire trucks and apparatuses snaked the 35 miles from Terrell to the cemetery. Roughly 1,000 people attended.
"it's dangerous out there and we're exposed on those freweays more often than we would like," said retired Dallas firefighter Kenneth Don Campbell.
Tanksley was buried in a portion of the cemetery reserved for first responders. The Garden of Honor was dedicated in 2006. Graves surround a massive bronze sculpture depicting two angels carrying a firefighter and a police officer into Heaven. The piece is coined, "We will always remember."
"It could have happened to any of us at any given moment," said Nancy Burris, whose husband, now retired, was a firefighter for 45 years. "So it's not over. When they lose their daddy or their mom or whoever is fallen, the fire department is a brotherhood. And, as I have said, we don't forget. We remember."