Headlines – 11/8/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – November 8, 2005

  From the 11/8/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

Accident claims life of Bynum volunteer firefighter
Webb responded to report of victim trapped in home
     Bynum volunteer firefighter Jimmy Webb is pictured in a 2003 photo with son Blake. The assistant fire chief was killed in a vehicle accident over the weekend as he responded to a house fire.
By John Howell Sr.

Bynum Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief James "Jimmy" Webb’s love of firefighting may have been enhanced by a fire at his family’s home when he was 12 years old.

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"We had an old, one-ton ’67 flat bed truck," which Webb’s father, James C. Webb Sr., drove to the home of neighbor J. C. Hubbard, he recalled.

"J. C. said he knew when I turned in his driveway that something was wrong," Webb added.

With help from neighbors filling a wash tub with water, that fire was eventually contained, but the father and son would eventually fight many more fires together as volunteer firefighters on the Bynum department serving their community.

That service ended the life of James C. "Jimmy" Webb Jr. Saturday when the water tanker he was driving to a fire call overturned, throwing him from the vehicle and killing him instantly.

A funeral service for Webb, 41, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Church in Batesville.

Visitation is scheduled for today from 5 to 8 p.m. at Wells Funeral Home in Batesville.

Webb was married to the former Daphne Tutor. They have two sons, Justin Caleb and Samuel Blake.

"Jimmy has shared over and over that when the Lord called him, he wanted to be working a fire," his sister-in-law, Stephanie Clements said.

Firefighters from the Courtland, Bynum, Mt. Olivet and Batesville departments were responding to the report of a mobile home fire at 3946-A Eureka Road, where a man was reported to be trapped inside the burning home.

The man, Ken Jones, was able to escape from the blazing mobile home on his own after the report was phoned in to the E-911 dispatcher.

Ironically, the Webbs – junior and senior – had already been working on fire department business before the call came in. With other volunteers they were helping to build a new fire station near the Eureka Community Center, but they had mentioned the need to leave at 10:30 a.m. to allow them time to attend a funeral.

When the firefighters were "toned out," the younger Webb responded to the Bynum station on Eureka Road to drive the department’s tanker truck.

As Webb drove the tanker northwest on Eureka Road, he apparently lost control in a curve about one-third to one-quarter mile from Crouch Road, Deputy Sheriff John Still said. Still said that his continuing investigation was was scheduled to include an interview with a witness who had just met the fire truck prior to the accident.

A dispatcher at the sheriff’s department said that the report of Webb’s accident was received about 11:30 a.m.

The elder Webb heard the report of the accident involving a Bynum truck over his fire radio and drove to the scene, he said. When he approached the scene and found other firefighters trying to keep him away, he knew that the victim had been his son, he said.

"He put other peoples’ lives first," Clements said. "He chose to be a volunteer and not make it a career because he thought he owed that."

War dead of nation, county honored Friday on Square
Everyone is invited to Memorial Park on the Batesville Downtown Square Friday for the annual Veteran’s Day Observance at 1 p.m.

Members of the South Panola High School Band will provide patriotic music with colors being presented by South Panola JRAFROTC. The Panola County Genealogical and Historical Society will present a brief history of local Veteran’s Day celebrations and Robert Rawson, senior pastor of Batesville Church of Christ, will make comments concerning our nation’s freedom and the price we pay for it.

A wreath will also be laid at the monument to Panola County’s war dead.

Jones escaped flames amid tragic wreck
By John Howell Sr.

The weekend house fire that resulted in the death of Bynum volunteer firefighter Jimmy Webb erupted with sudden fury at 3946-A Eureka Road.

The mobile home, which belongs to Brenda Rudd, was consumed by the flames Saturday morning.

Webb, an assistant fire chief, was killed instantly when the fire department tanker he was driving to ferry water to fight the fire rolled over on Eureka Road.

"My 17-year-old son saw (the fire). I called 911," said Theresa Rudd Fleming, whose home is located adjacent to the scene.

When they spotted the fire, it was "popping" and flames were bursting from the home’s windows and door.

During the house fire, Fleming said, Courtland Fire Chief Justin Maples directed water to extinguish fire around and cool the mobile home’s propane tank. He called to family members to use another hose to keep the fire from spreading through the grass to nearby structures.

Inside the home, Fleming’s cousin, Ken Jones, was sleeping. He works at night and sleeps during the day.

"He works third shift. You know how hard it is to wake them up," she said.

"We couldn’t get in…I got the fire extinguisher off my bus," the South Panola School District bus driver said. "My son got the fire extinguisher from another bus; it didn’t do any good."

"We thought there was no way he could get out," Fleming continued.

Fleming said that Jones told him he heard their shouts and banging on the walls as though it were from a long distance away. Then he awakened suddenly to discover that he couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe and that his bed was on fire.

Somehow, he was able to get up and run out of the home through the flames. He was burned on his face, arms and back, she said.

"Assistant Chief Jimmy Webb lost his life in a wreck trying to come help us after receiving a call that there was a fire with someone still inside the home," Fleming states in a letter to the editor, published today, in which she praises Webb and the community’s firefighters as heroes.

"It hurts so bad; he lost his life trying to help," Fleming said. "We can’t bring him back and that’s what hurts so bad," she added.

Firefighters from the Courtland, Mt. Olivet, and Batesville fire departments responded to the Eureka house fire, said Daniel Cole, deputy director of Panola Civil Defense.

Sheriff, NP trustee elections today
By Billy Davis

Panola County voters are going to the polls today to elect a new county sheriff, picking their choice from a crowded field of 11 candidates.

The winning candidate will fill a two-year term left open when Sheriff David Bryan passed away April 23.

The sheriff’s candidates are Noel Aldridge, Hugh "Shot" Bright, Steve Chancellor, Antonio Daniel, John Hardy, John Rodgers, Craig Sheley, Kelvin Taylor, Jamie Tedford, Gary Thompson and Mark Whitten.

The race took on a new angle last week when interim Sheriff Ida Bryan said her late husband wanted the department’s chief deputy, Craig Sheley, to succeed him as sheriff.

Bryan’s endorsement came in the final days of a tight race that pits Sheley against 10 other candidates, including sheriff’s department employees Whitten and Bright.

Whitten is a sheriff’s department investigator. Bright is the jail administrator.

The endorsement began airing in radio spots on WBLE 100.5, the Batesville radio station.

In the ad, Bryan says her late husband wanted Sheley to succeed him as sheriff and would have endorsed him if he were still alive.

Bryan, who works for the district attorney’s office, was in court Monday morning and did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Reached Monday, Sheley said he had no comment about the ad either.

"I think it speaks for itself," he said.

The radio ad was one of several last-minute pushes made by the candidates and their supporters. Panola voters received a post card from Bright last week, his second mass mailer of the campaign.

Sheriff’s candidate Jamie Tedford said Monday he would have over 50 volunteers working a phone bank Monday night.

"There’s no frontrunner, and I’m running the campaign like I’m a thousand votes behind," Tedford said.

An election for a North Panola School Board seat will also be on the ballot today. School board trustee Mack Taylor is facing opponents Jennette E. Jackson and Tracy Sykes Thompson for that position.

In the South Panola School District, Dr. Carlock Broome did not field an opponent in his re-election and hence that race will not be on the ballot.

The polls will open at 7 a.m. today and close at 7 p.m.

The votes will be counted at the Panola County Courthouse in Batesville.

For information about voting call the Panola County circuit clerk’s office at 563-6210 (Batesville) or 487-2073 (Sardis).

Supervisors vote to include election commissioners in health insurance plan
By Billy Davis

Panola County’s election commissioners will have a little more incentive to count votes late into the evening after today’s election: health insurance from the county.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 Monday to offer the five commissioners the county’s health insurance. Board president and District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins was absent at the "first Monday" meeting due to a family emergency.

The approximate cost to taxpayers is $250 per commissioner per month, said County Administrator David Chandler, a total of $1,250 a month and $15,000 a year.

Election commissioner Bonnie Land made the request Monday, more specifically asking for a vote from supervisors after asking for their "consideration" at past appearances on behalf of the entire commission.

"We’re an active commission," Land told supervisors. "We do more work than a lot of other counties, and their commissioners have insurance."

After Land finished her statement, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant suggested the board offer the insurance, then made a motion to the effect.

The supervisors voted on the motion without discussion.

Avant is the board’s vice president and presided over the Monday meeting in Perkins’ absence. After the meeting, Avant said the board’s vote wasn’t planned before the meeting.

"I didn’t know (Land) was going to be here," Avant said.

"It seemed like the right thing to do," Avant said of the insurance. "I contacted several other counties, and they give their commission insurance, so it seemed right to give our commission the same thing."

On a similar topic of voting, supervisors urged road manager Lygunnah Bean to work faster on updating and improving the county’s polling places.

The polling places are being improved as part of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

The state secretary of state’s office is doling out funds to help counties improve their polling places, but the work must be done before the state agency will hand over any funds.

"I don’t want to wait until it’s winter and too wet to do any work," said Avant. "And then it’ll be spring and the money is gone."

The improvement cost per voting precinct will be about $3,500, Bean told supervisors.

In other board business:
Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock pitched the idea of a G.I.S. system to supervisors, lauding the computer system for various capabilities that could assist the county.
     The multi-purpose system enables the user to map, plot and log a variety of information, Pitcock explained.
     "You can route school buses and emergency vehicles," the chancery clerk said. "The sheriff’s department can use it to locate areas with a high percentage of certain crimes."
     Pitcock made the pitch at the end of the supervisors meeting, not asking for any action but tossing out the idea for the supervisors to ponder.
Board of Supervisors attorney Bill McKenzie advised the supervisors to take a closer look at their proposed policy that would bar employees from running for public office.
     In particular, McKenzie said, the supervisors must be more specific in the policy because it will likely be scrutinized by the U.S. Justice Department.
     The supervisors, who took no action Monday, proposed the policy last month as an addition to the county’s employee handbook.
Supervisors accepted a $30,965 bid from River City for a refuse collector that will aid the county’s solid waste department. The equipment will sit atop a small truck and enable easier travel in yards for backdoor pickup.
     The county will purchase the truck through state contract for about $38,000, solid waste manager Dean Joiner told supervisors.
      River City’s bid beat out a bid of $33,908 from Truck Equipment sales.
‘Shots fired’ in Sardis came from police dept.
By Jason C. Mattox

A shooting inside the Sardis Police Department Saturday night left one officer injured, Mayor Alvis ?Rusty’ Dye said.

According to the mayor, officer Robert Turner was shot in the foot when a shotgun being unloaded by officer Daryl House went off.

"They were in the back of the department unloading the gun," he said. "When the gun went off, some of the pellets ricocheted and hit Turner in the foot."

Dye said Turner was treated for the gunshot wound at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford. He is now recovering at his home in the city.

"The Panola County Sheriff’s Department investigated the matter and determined the shooting was accidental," he said. "Officer House will return to duty today (Monday) and will not be placed on administrative leave."



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