Raleigh County firefighter community comes together to support family following fatal car wreck

Sara Pettry, 30, and Brooklyn Pettry, 3
Sara Pettry, 30, and Brooklyn Pettry, 3(WVVA)
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:26 PM EST
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RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. (WVVA) - A firefighter’s worst nightmare is to respond to an accident and learn that the victim is someone they know...even worse, someone they love.

For 35-year-old William Pettry, that nightmare became a reality on his birthday, Sunday, March 5, when his wife, Sara, 30, and his three-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, were killed in a head-on collision on Coal River Road in Arnett.

“It hits close to home when a firefighter rolls up on a scene,” said Public Information Officer for the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department Will Davis. “We’re supposed to be professional; we’re supposed to do a job, but none of us ever want to imagine that the scene we roll up on involves our family.”

Pettry is a member of the Coal River Volunteer Fire Department. According to other members of that department, Pettry was one of the first responders to the scene on Sunday, at first unaware that it was his family. Sara and her three daughters ages three, eight, and 11 had stopped by the fire department to visit William Sunday evening.

They got less than a mile down the road when they were hit.

In the wake of the tragedy, fire departments across Raleigh County rallied behind one of their own.

“It’s unimaginable,” Davis explained. “We want to try to lessen the burden that he’s [William] going through, so right now what we can do is we can donate money.”

Individual departments are working to hold fundraisers and events to help the Pettry family, but, according to Shane Wriston, President of the Raleigh County Firefighter’s Association, at a regular meeting on Monday, it was decided that every fire department in Raleigh County would pitch in.

He says the family should expect a check this week.

“The fire service in general is one big family and it doesn’t matter which department you’re in. We’re all- what you say- brothers and sisters, and when one of us is in need, we are all there to help out.”

But help is coming to the Pettry family even closer to home. BobbiJo Miller’s son works with William at the fire department. They may not all be related by blood, but if you ask Miller, she says they are all one big family.

Earlier this week, she began a gofundme to help cover funeral costs and other expenses. In just two days, the fund raised more than $10,000.

“It just touched a heartstring that anybody in the community would have felt,” Miller shared. “It’s hard enough to bury one, let alone two of your family members.”

When asked about the response from the community, those at the Coal River Volunteer Fire Department say it is overwhelming.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to know when a tragedy like this happens within our department, we’ve got brothers and sisters behind us to help out,” said Joanne Pettry, a member of the department and relative of William’s.

As the Pettry family and the Coal River Community continues to mourn, they do so knowing that more than a dozen departments are behind them helping in any way they can.

“Sometimes it’s not money,” said David. “Sometimes it’s prayers; sometimes it’s food; sometimes it’s huggin’ your own kids a little tighter, and we’ll do what we can, and we’ll survive because we’re West Virginians and that’s what we do.”

Both of Sara Pettry’s other daughters were hospitalized following the crash. According to William Pettry, the oldest daughter was released from Raleigh General Hospital on Wednesday following surgery to repair a broken collarbone.

The eight-year-old is still being evaluated at Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC).

54-year-old Kevin Graybeal is in custody at Southern Regional Jail and is facing charges including two counts of Second-Degree murder and more in connection to this accident.

WVVA is continuing to follow this story as it develops and will update you as we learn more.

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