Goodlettsville man dies after trash fire blows out of control - WSMV Channel 4

Goodlettsville man dies after trash fire blows out of control

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Sgt. Tony Turner Sgt. Tony Turner
GOODLETTSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Goodlettsville man has died from burns he suffered while trying to set fire to brush in his yard Sunday. But neighbors say the situation could have been even worse were it not for the brave actions of an off-duty Metro police officer.

Neal Dickens, 75, was trying to burn brush in a trash can in his yard when some papers blew out of the can and set his clothes on fire.

Sgt. Tony Turner happened to be heading home from church when he drove by what appeared to be a small grass fire. He could only see flames and could not see Dickens.

At first he kept driving but then had a split-second thought.

"I just listened to the voice in my head that told me to go back. And there's no doubt in my mind it was a spiritual thing, God, leading me back to him," Turner said.

Turner specializes in juvenile crime, and he did not have training for something like this. But what he did have was the courage for something like this.

"I came all the way up about a quarter of a mile and I still didn't see him. Then I looked back and I was like,' Oh, my goodness, there's a body,'" Turner said.

Dickens was a well-loved former roofing company owner who had survived a stroke and double-knee replacements that hampered his mobility.

But while trying to burn brush, he somehow caught himself on fire.

Turner used his bare hands to pat Dickens out everywhere he was burning.

"I just couldn't get him up. I tried two or three times and couldn't get him off the ground. The fire was all over his body. Between putting him out, and containing the fire, and running back and forth to the car to tell dispatch what was happening and to get help to him," Turner said.

Dickens was alert and talking when emergency crews arrived to rush him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, but the injuries were too devastating.

He did not survive.

Still, a neighbor said Sgt. Turner was an angel to the rescue.

"This gentleman right here - off-duty, going home from church - to me, he's a hero," said neighbor Helen Swade. "I will never forget you, Tony. I will never, ever forget you."

Dickens' friends said he was a lifetime member of the Shiners International.

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