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Freak Accident Claims Life Of Chief Forest Tech

Well-known forester William Alexander “Alex” Williamson of Alton died Saturday at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem following a freak accident Friday night on I-40 near Mocksville in Davie County, North Carolina. He was 59 years old.

Williamson was driving a Pontiac SUV westbound on I-40 when he was struck in the head by a three-foot diameter aluminum disk, according to North Carolina State Trooper Michael Brown.

The trooper said the unidentified metal object either blew off another vehicle or was kicked up off the interstate. It glanced off the hood of the SUV and crashed through the windshield, striking Williamson in the head. After examining the aluminum disk, Brown said scuffmarks on the object leads him to believe the item came from the road.

The trooper said after hitting Williamson, the disk came to rest in the back seat of the SUV. He said the vehicle with Williamson and three passengers was traveling at approximately 70 mph at the time of the incident. He also said the vehicle was in the right travel lane and was merging into the left lane. Brown said the SUV was on cruise control, and one of the passengers in the back seat called 911 at 7:42 p.m. 

After Williamson was hit, the SUV continued down I-40 for another 4.5 to 5 miles before his sister-in-law, Martha Williamson, who was riding in the front passenger seat was able to get the vehicle stopped approximately a mile and a half inside Iredell County, Brown said. Alex Williamson’s wife, Betty, was seated directly behind him, and an unidentified passenger was in the right rear seat. The passengers in the SUV sustained minor injuries, the trooper said.

Williamson was transported to Davis Regional Medical Center in Statesville, and he was later transported by ambulance to North Carolina Baptist Hospital where he died Saturday, Brown said.

Williamson worked for more than 35 years with the Virginia Department of Forestry, serving many years as chief forest tech in Halifax County. During his years with the Virginia Department of Forestry, he won several prestigious awards, including employee of the year and conservationist of the year.

He was a familiar site whenever a brush fire or fire in any wooded area broke out in Halifax County. Williamson also traveled across the country to fight forest fires whenever Virginia was asked to assist other states.

He was recognized nationwide in his fire prevention efforts by achieving distinguished service awards in Florida and Oklahoma, according to family members. Williamson served on the National Christmas Tree tour, and he was recognized for his outstanding efforts in the area of Forest Fire Prevention in Region 8.

Children across Halifax County learned about the importance of fire safety from Williamson, who would speak to them in the county’s schools, usually accompanied by Smokey the Bear.

He was a lifetime member of the Turbeville Volunteer Fire Department and was an honorary member of the South Boston Fire Company, as well as other fire departments.

Family members said he was best known for playing on their league ball teams and serving as master of ceremonies for firefighter parades.
Williamson was a member of American Legion Post #8 and VFW Post #8243, having served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1972.

He was a member of the Farm Bureau Board of Directors, an honorary member of the FFA and a member of the Department of Forestry Honor Guard.
He was a lifetime member of Calvary United Methodist Church.

Williamson is survived by his wife, Betty O’Brien Williamson, of the home; one son, John Alexander Williamson, also of the home; and by one daughter, Amanda Grace Williamson, of Roanoke.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.