East Grinstead: Firefighter Dies As Car Collides With Wall

3 August 2015, 18:17

A retained firefighter died after his car crashed into a wall as he responded to a 999 call - which turned out to be a false alarm.

Paul Keenor, 23, was en route to an emergency when his Toyota Celica crashed at Ashurst Wood, near East Grinstead, at 11.55pm on Saturday, Sussex Police said.

A police spokesman said: "It is understood he was responding to his alerter as a result of a 999 call received by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service when the crash occurred in Wall Hill Road, Ashurst Wood.''

A spokeswoman for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said the call turned out to be a false alarm.

Appealing for witnesses, police said no other vehicle was involved. Mr Keenor, a building contractor, had been a crew member at Forest Row fire station since 2011.

Witnesses are asked to call Sussex Police on 101, quoting Operation Wroxham, or email collision.appeal@sussex.pnn.police.uk

Tribute from East Sussex Fire and Rescue

Firefighting colleagues of Mr Keenor said they had "lost a brother'' and their "go-to guy''.

East Sussex chief fire officer Des Prichard said: "We are deeply saddened. Paul was a dedicated and lively member of Forest Row Community Fire Station.

"He was committed and always ready to serve his community. We send our heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues at Forest Row. This is an incredibly difficult time for them. We ask that their privacy is respected.''

In a statement, colleagues at Forest Row said: "His family must be so proud, knowing that he was a brave, dedicated and professional firefighter, and also a very successful and respected builder and business owner. Paul had achieved so much and done more than most people do in a lifetime despite his tender age.

"The crew at Forest Row have lost a brother and a great friend. Paul's personality was huge, and his kind nature and brilliant sense of humour will be missed enormously.

"Paul was always our go-to guy, always there whether you needed a chat or a shoulder to cry on. We all looked to him for advice or support at some point. It was often very easy to forget that he was so young because in a lot of ways he was mature past his years.

"In May of this year, Paul passed his incident command assessment, allowing him to be in charge of a crew. He only had a chance to do this a few times but he did this to a very high standard as he did with everything he put his mind to. Paul had a bright and long career in front of him.''

Family tribute

The family of Paul Keenor, 23, who sadly died when his car collided with a wall near his home in Ashurst Wood, East Grinstead, on Saturday night (1 August) have paid tribute to "an all round brilliant lad".

His father Graham said he had been a much loved member of the community who would do anything for anybody.

A former pupil at Sackville School, East Grinstead, Paul and his younger sister, Poppy, 20, had both distinguished themselves as swimmers, competing on behalf of clubs in Crawley and East Grinstead.

Paul was also a talented rugby player, a cornerstone of the pack at prop forward, and he played regularly at Haywards Heath RUFC. He also represented Sussex.

Mr Keenor, senior, said: "From the age of 10 years old Paul was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but he never let that stand in the way of his sport or his life in general.

"He had established his own business as a builder, employing three other men, and his order book was full well into next year.

"He had a lifelong interest in the fire service, joining the team at Forest Row in 2011, and had overcome his medical difficulties in order to gain a licence to become one of those able to drive the appliance.

"It was typical of him that when his alerter went off on Saturday night his only thought was that someone might be in trouble and he needed to help."

Mr Keenor added: "Paul had a wicked sense of humour and he is going to be missed more than I can say by his family and all who knew him."

He leaves two sons, Vincent, aged three, and Charlie, aged 17 months.