fatal accident

A retired captain from the Laurel Fire Department was killed in a crash on Interstate 59 in Jasper County just after noon on Saturday, according to a Mississippi Highway Patrol report.

Ronald Smith, 71, was near mile-marker 109 when the Chevrolet pickup he was driving was struck from behind by a Jaguar that was driven by 50-year-old Dennis Plummer of Heidelberg, according to the MHP report. Smith was pronounced dead and Plummer was transported by ambulance with what were described as “non-life-threatening injuries.”

The report didn’t say whether Smith had slowed down or if Plummer was going fast, but witnesses reportedly told the trooper working the wreck that the Jaguar was traveling at a high rate of speed. The cause of the crash is under investigation, said Sgt. Andy West of the MHP’s Troop H based in Meridian.

Smith, who operated an air-conditioning and heat repair business, was on the way back from a job in Meridian when the crash occurred. A nurse reportedly stopped and rendered aid, but Smith was already dead, a source with knowledge of the crash said.

“He was a very good leader and trainer, and he was a hard worker,” said LFD Chief Mark Nichols, who trained under Smith. 

“He was not soft-spoken,” Nichols said with a chuckle, “but he would help anybody.”

Nichols recalled working his first structure fire and getting tips from Smith before he retired in 1995.

“Even at retirement age, he could outdo everyone on the job,” Nichols said. “It’s a big loss. Everyone in Laurel, Mississippi knew Ronnie Smith.”

Mr. Smith’s obituary in on Page A3.

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