Report: Firefighter intoxicated at time of fatal crash

MCCORDSVILLE — A firefighter killed in a train accident en route to an emergency call on Christmas Eve was intoxicated behind the wheel, reports show.

Richard Rehm, 55, a member of the McCordsville Fire Department, was responding to a 911 call around 2:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve morning when his car became stuck on a set of tracks on the county’s northwest side and minutes later was struck by a train.

Though his death was ruled an accident, Rehm’s death certificate lists polydrug intoxication — or a mix of substances — as a contributing factor in his death.

Toxicology reports show Rehm took a prescription medication and drank alcohol in the hours before he died, officials said. The type of drug was not released, but police say they confirmed with Rehm’s family that he had been taking pills prescribed to him.

Rehm’s legacy of serving his community shouldn’t be overshadowed by the autopsy’s findings, McCordsville Police Chief Harold Rodgers said. The man’s death is still a tragic accident, despite the unfortunate details, he said.

McCordsville Fire Chief Tom Alexander said he wasn’t aware of the report indicating Rehm was intoxicated, and he declined to comment on its results. He said many of his firefighters are still mourning the loss of their dear friend, and they hope to honor his legacy of service by helping their neighbors as Rehm would have wanted them to.

“It’s time to move forward,” he said. “You can only let the pain affect you for so long.”

Rehm was driving southbound on North County Road 600W while responding to a call about a fire alarm on Dec. 24. He was headed to the call from his home; volunteer firefighters do not staff their fire station 24 hours a day.

As he was crossing a set of CSX railroad tracks that run through Fortville and McCordsville, his Ford Fusion became stuck on the tracks for an unknown reason, according to police reports.

Rehm’s vehicle was then struck by an oncoming westbound train, officials said. He was killed instantly and pronounced dead at the scene by a representative of the Hancock County Coroner’s office.

The crash was investigated by members of the McCordsville Police Department. Toxicology tests were conducted by the coroner’s office per investigation protocols for a fatal accident.

Rodgers, whose officers investigated the crash, said there was nothing at the scene of the accident that indicated Rehm was intoxicated. Officers became aware that Rehm had substances in his system only after the toxicology records came back.

Rehm became a volunteer firefighter at 18. He volunteered with the McCordsville Fire Department for 16 years and was a 25-year member of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters’ Association.

More than 300 firefighters, family members and friends packed the Mt. Vernon High School gymnasium to honor man’s career during a funeral service in January. His was the first line-of-duty death of a local firefighter in more than 20 years.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.