For the second time in a week, the Durango Fire Protection District is mourning the loss of one of its own.
Scott Gallagher, 49, was struck and killed by a vehicle while riding his bike early Sunday on Florida Road, according to the Durango Police Department.
The crash was reported at 2:22 a.m. near Aspen Drive and Florida Road.
Gallagher was a fire training captain who had been with the agency for more than 20 years, said Hal Doughty, DFPD chief. He said Gallagher was returning home from a “celebration” and visiting an old friend when the car struck him from behind.
It is the second death in less than a week to hit close to home for the DFPD.
On Thursday, Leo Lloyd, 60, died from heart complications while riding a bike with one of his sons in the Twin Buttes area. Lloyd spent 42 years in emergency services, including working as an EMT captain for DFPD and doing technical rescues with La Plata County Search and Rescue.
Doughty said the deaths have come as a shock to firefighters and EMS workers.
“These (members) are as close to family as you get without being blood relations,” he said. “... So it’s a big deal. It’s hard on these guys when they realize, ‘Oh my god. This is Scott.’”
Gallagher was traveling northeast on the right side of Florida Road when a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria traveling the same direction hit him from behind, sending Gallagher over the hood and through the windshield of the vehicle, said Cmdr. Ray Shupe, spokesman with the Durango Police Department.
It is believed Gallagher died on impact, he said.
The driver of the vehicle fled on foot. The owner of the vehicle called police at 7:30 a.m. Sunday to report the Crown Victoria had been stolen. But after interviewing the owner, police determined the vehicle hadn’t been stolen and the owner was in fact driving at the time of the crash, Shupe said.
The driver was identified as Lorenzo Jones, 19, of Durango.
He had injuries consistent with being involved in a crash, including cuts from the shattered windshield, Shupe said. He eventually confessed to being the driver after extensive questioning, he said.
He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide and another traffic infraction that includes leaving the scene of an accident and failing to render aid. Formal charges are expected to be filed at a later date. Jones posted a $25,000 bail and was free as of Monday afternoon.
Police also suspect Jones was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the crash, but blood tests are pending.
Shupe said police are investigating the point of impact, but it looks like Gallagher was riding on the right shoulder of the road. The vehicle and the bike came to rest about 200 feet past the point of impact, near Oak Drive and Florida Road, on the right side of the road and partially on the curb. No skid marks were found at the scene, he said.
Police said Gallagher had a front headlight on his bike, and they believe he had a rear taillight. But the bike was dragged under the car, making it difficult to know if he had an operable rear taillight.
Gallagher was not wearing a helmet.
Police don’t suspect impairment on the part of Gallagher, but they are awaiting toxicology reports.
Police are asking anyone who witnessed the crash to contact them. They also say Jones had contact with several people after the crash. They are reviewing phone records and video, but they are asking anyone who had contact with him to contact a detective by calling 764-7535.
“It’s just a sad day,” Shupe said. “Our hearts go out, certainly, to the family, friends and co-workers of the victim. Scott was certainly well-liked in the community.”
Gallagher joined the Durango Fire Department in May 1999. As a fire training captain, he was responsible for basic training for new firefighters all the way through advanced training in firefighting and rescue techniques, Doughty said.
Doughty described Gallagher as “high energy” and always excited about the day’s activities, no matter what it was. At the same time, he was professional about the work he did. He would spend hours preparing and doing research before teaching a class to make sure he had everything correct, Doughty said.
He trained new recruits on how to respond to life-or-death situations, he said.
Because of his role, he had meaningful interactions with just about everybody involved with DFPD, Doughty said, noting that DFPD crews who responded to the crash knew him well.
“You know how firefighters are,” he said. “They don’t just work together. They work together and play together on their days off and vacation together and are joined at the hip.”
Firefighters and medics work in high-stress environments and must deal with death and tragedy on a regular basis, Doughty said. As a result, the department already has internal peer support groups that are trained to look for signs of critical-incident stress and coping issues.
“We’re just trying to do the best that we can to take enough pause to make sure that our men and women, the workforce here, are well and are getting the help that they need,” he said. “At the same time, the 911 phone doesn’t stop ringing.”
Gallagher was an avid biker. He would have rather ridden his bike somewhere than driven a car, Doughty said.
He is survived by a wife, Karen, and 13-year-old daughter, Gwen, who he enjoyed riding bikes with.
“She was just Scott’s world,” Doughty said of Gwen. “That’s one of the big things that they did together was go on biking vacations.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family. The page, which had raised almost $20,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, can be found by going to GoFundMe and searching “Support for Karen and Gwen.“