Charleston 9: Capt. Billy Hutchinson
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Ten years ago, on the night of the Sofa Super Store fire, Haley Hutchinson was visiting her grandparents in Connecticut.
She thought about calling her dad, Charleston Fire Capt. Billy Hutchinson, but since she'd be back in Charleston the next day she decided against it. She says it is a decision she has regretted ever since.
"Father's day is super hard. I don't like to go out. I don't do, anything for Fathers day," she says. "I just lock myself in my room and just cry. June is not easy. 10 years, it's still not. It's not easy."
Hours before the deadly fire, as Haley and her twin sister, Aubree, were preparing for their flight home, she recalls something felt wrong.
"I had a really funny feeling I looked at Aubree we're at the airport and I said, 'Aubree do you have this really funny feeling?' And she was like, "Yeah I do,' but she can't describe it," she says. "We got home at 11:30 p.m. that night. She called my mom and she was like, 'Dad's gone.' And we were like, 'Okay, where did he go?' She was like, 'Dad's gone.' And it was really hard when we came home that night. and we d ropped off our luggage and heard the answering machine. And it was like, 'Hey girls it's Daddy. I just want to see what you want to do for father's day. Give us a call back. I love you. Bye.'"
Hutchinson also cherishes a picture from Disneyworld of a happier time with her dad. She takes it with her where ever she goes.
Hutchinson breaks into a grin as she remembers her father's smile.
"He always had this goofy smile...always," she says. "And I guess that's where I get it from I don't know. But this is the cheesy smile he always had. This is the smile. You can't get angry at that smile."
Haley says her father, nicknamed Lightning, loved being a firefighter. She knew the work he did was dangerous but says it never crossed her mind that one day he wouldn't come home.
"He came home one night from a fire and a piece of wood had fallen on him," she says. "So I knew what he was going into but I never had that fear that I would lose him. It makes me happy that he died doing what he loved."
Haley, her mother and two sisters, took Hutchinson's death very hard.
The Sofa Super Store Fire, the lawsuits and settlements made national headlines. In time, that attention led to tension among those she thought were friends.
"Everybody was like, 'I'm really sorry for your loss,' and they were there for me," she says. "But as time went on they changed. They thought I was rich and would use me for my money. And it's like, 'What money? I still have to work like any of y'all.' And so I got tired of it and I moved."
After she moved, she met and married Joshua Hurst whom she describes as a great guy who her father would have loved.
Being without her father the last 10 years she says she feels cheated in many ways because he wasn't able to see her get married, or meet his 10-month-old granddaughter. She has even thought about what she would do if her daughter wanted to pursue a career fighting fires.
"I'd say if that's what she wants to do to follow her dreams," she says. "My dad said follow your dreams. Life is too short. Live it to the fullest. And if that's what she wanted to do, I'd support it. Even though I know the consequences of what could happen, I would still want her to follow her dreams."
Though physically her father is no longer here, she says she feels his presence every time a firetruck passes she instinctively speaks to him.
"Hey Daddy," she says. "I say it in front of Josh. And you can say I'm weird for that, but that's my way of my dad saying, 'Hi' to me."
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