Braxton Citizens' News, Community

Local Fallen Firefighter Receives Hero’s Welcome

Citizens lined the overpasses of I-79 as Braxton County brought a fallen hero home. A procession escorted John D. Forbush’s body from the State Medical Examiners’ Office in Charleston to Roach Funeral Home in Gassaway Wednesday morning with hundreds of first responders and volunteers paying tribute to the fallen hero along the way.
Forbush lost his life on May 1st, at approximately 2:30 p.m., when a vehicle plunged into the Elk River, resulting in the death of both vehicle occupants and the off-duty volunteer firefighter, who attempted to provide aid to the victims before emergency responders arrived on scene.
The vehicle, operated by 42-year-old LaTonya Bell of Cleveland, Ohio, drove into the Elk River near the area of the Braxton County Senior Citizens Center along Route 4. While working less than a mile away, off-duty Gassaway Volunteer Firefighter, John D. Forbush, 24-years-old, heard the initial dispatch call on his department issued radio and responded directly to the scene. Once on scene, Firefighter Forbush communicated via radio transmission that there appeared to be victims trapped inside the vehicle and immediately jumped into the river to render aid. During the rescue efforts, Firefighter Forbush was unable to free the victims from the vehicle, and he also lost his life.
The other fatalities from this incident included 42-year-old LaTonya Bell of Cleveland, Ohio, 8-year-old Havana Pipkins of Cleveland, Ohio. All three victims were sent to the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston.
An investigation into this incident by the Braxton County Sheriff’s Office has revealed that Ms. Bell intentionally drove her vehicle into the Elk River and has been ruled a murder/suicide.
John D. Forbush selflessly gave his life for strangers in need. He proudly served the Gassaway community for 4 years as a volunteer firefighter. His service to the community will forever be remembered.
Summersville Fire Department, from Nicholas County, also responded to the scene with Dive Rescue resources. Fire departments from throughout the county participated in the rescue/recovery operations.