JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A retired and highly decorated firefighter is dead after the car he was driving lost control and hit a utility pole on New Berlin Road on Wednesday afternoon.
Today, his family is struggling to come to terms with a loving father and grandfather's death, right before Christmas.
"They called and told me there had been a crash and asked where the babies were because there were car seats in the car," recalled wife Debbie Hedrick.
Lieutenant Bruce Hedrick was a husband, father, grandpa and retired firefighter. Wednesday afternoon, police say he attempted to pass a couple of cars on New Berlin Road, but as the road curved, he kept going straight.
His wife went numb when investigators knocked on her door with the devastating news. Her husband didn't survive.
"Thinking it was on impact, instantly, that's the only thing that I was glad about. Not any suffering."
Debbie Hedrick says she thinks his defibrillator went off, sending a powerful jolt through his body. He had a pacemaker put in years ago for heart problems. She says in the last few days, it had gone off several times, shocking his heart back into beating.
"If he's standing up, it throws him to his knees. So if it hit him he would have grabbed his chest and not had his hands on the steering wheel. To make no attempt to turn at all is what tells me maybe that's what happened."
She says her husband has always been a fighter. He spent 30 years fighting fires. And now, she says, his memory will live on through old photographs of his glory days.
"When he retired he was the third-most decorated on the fire department. He's been firefighter of the year, he's got bronze and silver life saving medals, been on the cover of the firefighter magazine," she said. "There was a lot of dangers in the job, but he loved it."
Hedrick's wife says firefighting was a family tradition. Several other family members were also on the force including his father.
The family tells Action News they're still working to plan his funeral arrangements.
He leaves behind his wife, two children and four grandchildren.