Driver in Fatal Fire Truck Crash Was Fresh Out of Jail

The driver's passenger, 19-year-old model Evelyn Courtney, was killed in the crash

By Monica Garske and Dave Summers
|  Saturday, Jun 22, 2013  |  Updated 1:33 PM PDT
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Wade Courtney fondly remembers his daughter, 19-year-old model Evelyn Courtney, who was killed in a crash with a fire truck in Poway. NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.

Wade Courtney fondly remembers his daughter, 19-year-old model Evelyn Courtney, who was killed in a crash with a fire truck in Poway. NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.

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Friends Mourn Teen Model

Friends of 19-year-old Evelyn Courtney, who died in a car accident Thursday morning, gathered in Poway for an impromptu vigil Thursday night.

Passenger Dies After Firetruck Collision

The Sheriff's Department discusses the death of a 19-year-old girl after a car slammed into a fire engine Thursday morning.
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The driver of a car that fatally collided with a fire truck in Poway early Thursday morning had been released from jail just two days before the crash, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department confirmed.

According to officials, 44-year-old Robbie Gillespie had been released from jail on bond just 48 hours before his red Honda collided with a fire truck at Poway Road and Midland Road.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department has now confirmed that Gillespie had been previously arrested for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, possession of drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Gillespie’s passenger – 19-year-old Poway resident Evelyn Courtney – died in the Thursday morning crash. Gillespie became trapped inside the vehicle and was later extricated by crews at the scene. He was taken to a local trauma center with unknown injuries.

On Thursday, investigating deputies said a broken alcohol bottle was found inside Gillespie’s car at the time of the crash. Officials have not confirmed if drugs or alcohol played a factor in the deadly collision.

Investigators say the fire truck, occupied by a crew of three Poway paramedics and firefighters, was en route to an emergency call when the engine and Honda collided. No firefighters were injured in the crash.

Courtney, the young victim killed in the collision, was an aspiring print and runway model who worked at Steinmart. On Thurday night, Courtney’s co-workers and friends held a candlelight vigil on the road where she was killed.

They prayed and shared stories about Courtney and left cards and flowers in her memory. Friends said the young woman had a promising career and life ahead before her untimely death.

Charges have not yet been filed against Gillespie, as the investigation is ongoing.

On Friday night, the victim’s father, Wade Courtney, and brother, Jonathan Courtney, spoke to NBC 7.

Wade said he’s deeply saddened by the loss of his young daughter, but is touched by the flowers, cards and online messages people have been leaving behind in Courtney’s memory.

As part of his grieving process, Wade has been posting his thoughts and photos he’s taken of his daughter over the years on Facebook.

He said Courtney was a natural in front of the camera, even at a young age, smiling and happily posing for endless photographs.

“I think I have a couple thousand [photos of Evelyn],” he told NBC 7.

Wade said looking at the pictures of his daughter is all part of the slow healing process.

“I didn’t cry a lot yesterday, but I cried a lot today and will cry more tomorrow,” said the father.

Wade said he walked right past the fatal accident in Poway Thursday morning on his way to catch the bus to work. He said seeing the crash gave him a sick feeling to his stomach, but at that time, he had no idea his daughter had been killed in the collision.

The teen’s brother, Jonathan, told NBC 7 he’s still in shock over the death of his sister.

Jonathan said he and his sister were close friends, and spent hours sharing their aspirations and dreams. Now, he said it’s hard to imagine fulfilling those dreams without her here.

“Her smile; I’m going to miss her smile the most. She almost always had a smile on her face,” said Jonathan.

Wade said his daughter didn’t know a stranger and touched many lives. He too will remember her picture perfect smile he so often photographed.

“She had a great sense of humor. She loved to make people laugh; she loved to laugh herself,” he added.

Investigators have not released details surrounding the nature of the relationship between Gillespie and Courtney but according to Wade, Gillespie was a mentor and friend to his daughter.

Wade said Gillespie was taking Courtney home early Thursday morning after she had finished working on a fashion project with Gillespie’s wife.

A memorial fund for Courtney has been established online. To donate, click here.

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