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Delaware firefighter fatally hit by truck while helping another crash victim

Cecilia Escobar-Duplan was "always trying to help somebody that needed something, no matter what."

File photo of police tape.
File photo of police tape.Read moreYong Kim / Staff Photographer

A 25-year-old Delaware firefighter and West Chester University security officer was fatally hit by a truck after she pulled over to help another driver who had crashed on the southbound side of I-95 in Wilmington early Sunday morning.

Cecilia Escobar-Duplan, of New Castle, was driving home after her overnight security shift at West Chester at 4:15 a.m. when she encountered a Jeep that had spun out of control and crashed in a construction zone off-ramp near Delaware Avenue, according to Delaware State Police. The Jeep was perpendicular on the off-ramp, completely blocking the lane.

In an attempt to help the driver, Escobar-Duplan pulled over on the shoulder of the off-ramp and got out of her car. As she walked over to assist, a GMC truck was approaching, and due to weather conditions and poor lighting, its 72-year-old driver did not see the scene, police said.

The truck struck Escobar-Duplan, then the Jeep.

Escobar-Duplan was taken to Christiana Hospital, where she died from her injuries. The 37-year-old Jeep driver was treated at Wilmington Hospital and was released. Police said the drivers were not impaired.

Escobar-Duplan was a security officer for the West Chester University Police Department since 2018, working her way from part-time to full-time within three months of being hired. She was enrolled at West Chester, working to complete an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, with the goal of becoming a police officer, said Ray Stevenson, director and chief of police at the school.

“Unfortunately, the way that she was killed, that was typical Cece. She was always trying to help somebody that needed something, no matter what,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson described Escobar-Duplan as outgoing and compassionate, and said she worked to make herself easily accessible to West Chester students. He said that she was passionate about helping immigrants and DACA students, and wanted to help change the perception of law enforcement related to immigration.

Escobar-Duplan joined the Wilmington Manor Volunteer Fire Company in June 2018 as a probationary member and became a senior member in June 2019. She acquired her firefighting and basic medical training, and was working as an emergency medical technician. She was also set to take courses this fall to acquire her EMT state and national registry certifications.

“Cecelia was a very enthusiastic and charismatic person that was continually improving her skills to grow in the Department and within her life and community,” Ronald T. Hopkins, president of the Wilmington Manor Volunteer Fire Company, said in a statement. “We are saddened by this loss, and are in contact with her family to provide any support while they deal with their grief.”

Sarah Highberger, director of Camp Fury Delaware, a camp for young women interested in pursuing careers in public safety, said she had been one of Escobar-Duplan’s fire academy instructors and recruited her to work for Camp Fury because of her courage, kindness, and dedication to empowering women in public safety.

“She always pushed through on hard tasks,” she said. “It’s tough to be female in the fire service, and she always kept going.”

The fire company said Escobar-Duplan was close to her siblings and parents, who could not immediately be reached Monday.