Witness recounts accident that killed Dallas firefighter

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by REBECCA LOPEZ and DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 6:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 11 at 6:40 PM

DALLAS -- Dallas firefighters lowered a flag to half-mast Tuesday to honor a fallen colleague.

William Scott Tanksley was killed Monday night while working at an accident on an icy bridge over Interstate 20 in Southwest Dallas.

His uncle, Tom Tanksley, is a retired Dallas assistant fire chief.

"I’m proud of Scott, because he always wanted to do his best, and sometimes you don't see that all the time. But Scott did. Scott wanted to be good," his grieving uncle said.

Sydney Yancy was driving his tow truck on Spur 408 when he saw a car lose control after hitting an ice patch on the overpass.

"He was not going fast, as far as I could see," Yancy said. "There was just so much ice you could not walk."

The driver couldn't stop and hit another vehicle that had just crashed into the guard rail.

"He said, 'Man, I was trying to really avoid hitting that car head-on with the red car when I hit my brakes and slid into him,'" Yancy recalled.

Dallas firefighter William Scott Tanksley was helping the driver in the first car when he, too, was hit. Tanksley fell 56 feet to his death.

Yancy said initially, the driver who hit them didn't know the firefighter had fallen from the bridge.

"He was like, 'Oh man, don't tell me I did... don’t tell me my car hit the firefighter... don’t tell me,'" Yancy recalled.

He said the driver in the first car who was being helped was distraught because he did see the firefighter die.

"He said, 'Man, he was coming to help me, bro... he was coming to help me, and now he’s dead,'" the tow truck driver said.

Yancy said he saw firefighters rush down the embankment to try and help their fallen colleague.

"I see maybe four or five firefighters trying to make their way down the bridge, but it was slippery and they could not get there fast," he said.

The firefighters tried to do chest compressions on Tanskley, but they could not save him.

He died a hero, helping others.

A thousand rainy days could not wash away the strong connection between Tanksley and baseball in Kemp.

After high school, he pitched in college at Mississippi State, then played four seasons of minor league ball in the Minnesota Twins' organization.

"He was definitely one of the better athletes to come out of Kemp," said former Kemp athletic director Glen West. "Probably the best baseball player to come out of Kemp."

More recently, at Kemp's Little League field, the father of three children was known as "coach" to many kids, including his own.

His uncle, the fellow firefighter, knows the risks of the job — but says public servants like Scott Tanksley try not to think about it ending this way.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com and dschechter@wfaa.com

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