Funds raised for Strasburg firefighter injured in crash

Eddie Wharton, a firefighter with the Strasburg Volunteer Fire Department, was seriously injured in a car crash at 3:06 a.m. Friday while driving northbound on Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County.

Nathan Hirschberg, a family friend, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Wharton pay his hospital bills. Hirschberg stated on the fundraiser’s web page that Wharton has already undergone one round of surgery, and “at this point it is uncertain if Eddie will be able to keep both of his legs or if the surgeons will have to amputate them due to the trauma.”

Strasburg Fire Department Operations Capt. Chris Pangle said that Wharton is in “serious condition, but he is stable.”

In the meantime, Pangle said that the Fire Department has been helping the family prepare for Wharton’s return from the hospital.

“The Fire Department is working closely with the family. On a day-to-day basis, we are assisting the family with projects around the house: to help with (making the house) handicap-accessible and getting things ready for him to come home,” he said.

Pangle said that the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has been helping, too. Wharton’s father, Jeff Wharton, is a lieutenant with the Fairfax department and was previously chief of the Strasburg department.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind that, once he has healed, that he will come back and give back to the community as he’s done over the years, just like his father,” Pangle said.

Zach Miller, a volunteer firefighter for the department, has known Wharton since the two were in third grade.

“When I first was contacted about it, by his family — you know, I consider their family about as much as my own family — and when I heard the news, it hit me hard,” Miller said. “It really felt like, as soon as I heard what happened, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. It felt like somebody just punched me right in the chest.”

“Eddie’s a good boy,” Pangle said. “A hard worker.”

“Good boy. Great heart. Do anything in the world for you,” Miller said.

Wharton, 20, is hospitalized in Roanoke, and it is unknown when he will be able to return to Strasburg.

“Any time a young man is involved in an accident this serious, it’s hard. It’s hard. But it’s even harder when it’s one of your own,” Pangle said.

At the time of this article’s publication, the GoFundMe campaign had raised over $3,200.

“I think that the community has been a blessing,” Pangle said. “They have donated and it’s been wonderful.”

“It’s really nice to see everybody come together. It really is,” Miller said. “You don’t realize how much everybody’s got your back until something like this happens.”

Those wishing to contribute to the Eddie Wharton GoFundMe campaign can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/4wq7fao.