Giving all: remembering Captain Sewell

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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It’s often said it takes a special kind of individual to face danger head-on for the sake of his fellow man. From all reports, the late Roy L. Sewell, Jr. stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the front of the short line of rough and ready firefighters willing to give all.

Firefighters are a rare breed. They arise each day never knowing if this will be their last call. They enter buildings aflame with broiling heat and smoke with just a layer of turnout gear between them and the elements.

The volunteer firefighters under the banner of the North Tazewell Fire Station knew Captain Sewell had their backs. And Sewell knew every single one of his fellow fighters had his.

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The veteran fire station captain would experience his last call alone, inside his tanker truck while on his way to establish a medical helicopter landing zone. The temporary zone was needed to airlift a nine-year-old boy involved in an ATV crash.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol report, Sewell was traveling along Cedar Fork Road when his engine left the right-hand side of the roadway, tumbling down an embankment. The fire truck flipped over, coming to rest upside down.

Sewell was wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash, according to the THP report.

Matthew Sewell spoke about his brother via a Facebook post.

“Roy truly gave his all to his family first, then (the North Tazewell Volunteer Fire) department. His willingness to serve and heart for his brotherhood and community went unmatched. Thank you for all the years of love and service this department gave to him. We’re all shocked and words are hard to come by, but one thing rings true and it’s that he was doing what he loved. I’m praying for peace and solace for those who responded and his second family during this time.”

In another post, Matthew recalled how his brother had the uncanny knack to have never met a stranger.

“Roy spent his entire adult life showing the people around him that no matter what your situation is, there’s always time to smile. He lit up a room like nobody else could.”

And, on a more personal note:

“I’ll miss you but I know I will get to see you again one day when it’s my turn to visit the pearly gates. You better be there to greet me when I arrive. We have a few more rounds of CoD Zombies to play.”

David Breeding, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management/Homeland Security, spoke of the incident.

“Heroes dwell among us. They come in many forms and one would not always recognize them. Contrary to popular belief they do not wear capes or masks. Our heroes are not chosen; they never believe they are heroes. Our heroes choose a pathway to follow, not for fame and fortune, but the passion that drives them.”

Breeding said heroes are willing to perform any task, be it simple or complicated.

“When they are tired they don’t waiver. When everything appears to be in the darkest hour they hold a light. They are willing to answer the call no matter the circumstances.

“We as a community are so blessed to have those heroes among us. When God calls one home it tends to stir feelings and have us ask the question ‘how can we help?’ When tragedy strikes, our county comes together to offer that help. It truly doesn’t matter if we are firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, doctors, nurses, teachers, dispatchers, military or somewhere in between. We need to thank these folks for what they do. Our time on earth is short; we try to make it count.”

Sewell’s last real radio communication was reportedly “where do you need me?”

The veteran firefighter was just 27 years old at the time of his death.