updated 6/14/2008 7:18:42 PM ET 2008-06-14T23:18:42

A tractor-trailer driving through blinding fog and smoke on a coastal highway in North Carolina struck a sheriff's deputy and a firefighter directing traffic early Saturday, killing them, authorities said.

The wreck happened around 5:15 a.m. Saturday near a controlled burn at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Onslow County along the central North Carolina coast, Highway Patrol Lt. Everett Clendenin said.

The truck had slowed because of the poor visibility when it struck deputy Steven Boehm, 36, and firefighter Gene Thomas, 52, Clendenin said.

"This loss is a great tragedy for everyone. These men served honorably," Sheriff's Capt. Rick Sutherland said.

A second deputy, Bill Hall, suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from the hospital, Sutherland said.

Troopers said they are planning to charge the 51-year-old truck driver in the accident and their investigation is continuing.

Backup requested
Officials at Camp Lejeune, which surrounds the highway, called for help after smoke from a controlled burn on the base combined with fog to significantly reduce visibility, Sutherland said.

Several minor wrecks happened along the highway in the minutes before the deputy and firefighter were struck, Sutherland said.

Officials shut down the highway for several hours after the fatalities, but it has since reopened.

It was not immediately clear if the controlled burn had anything to do with a 62-square-mile wildfire burning about 100 miles away in northeastern North Carolina. Calls to officials at Camp Lejeune were not immediately returned Saturday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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