Firefighters Remember Fatal 1966 Accident

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Mattoon – March 29, 1966.  Two Mattoon fire trucks collide at the intersection of Broadway and 15th.

Both trucks rolled over.  Eight firemen were injured, three seriously.  Fireman Robert “Bobby” DeMars, 34, married with children, killed when he was ejected from his truck and it landed on top of him.  In 1966 fire trucks did not have seat belts.

“I think about it at least once a week,” Troy “Webb” Timm told WAND’s Doug Wolfe as he looked at that intersection 50 years to the day later.  “I came through, started through trying to beat him.”

Timm was driving a pumper and saw the other truck at the last moment and tried to add speed to avoid the collision.  After they hit the other truck was upside down at a corner of the intersection.  Timm’s truck flipped down Broadway landing upright in front of the Time Theater.  Timm was nearly ejected through the front windshield.

“My head started through,” Timm, now 82, recalled.  “My buddy grabbed me to hang on.  And when he did he stopped me from going on out.”

A plaque commemorating the accident has been erected on a corner.  Jacqueline Bly, was 11 when the accident happened.  At first her family was told her father, Merrill “Dean” Elder, was dead.  Elder lived but was disabled.  Bly is happy the plaque has been erected since many people forgot about her father after the accident happened.

“Bobby DeMars he, he was a great guy and my dad was great too.  He just got hurt and he was permanently disabled after that” Bly said.

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