HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Lester LaBarge will spend two years behind bars for the accident that killed Hanover Fire Lt. Brad Clark in 2018. LaBarge hit the back of a fire truck, injuring multiple firefighters, on Interstate 295 back in October of 2018.
Clark passed away at the scene and three other firefighters were injured.
In court on Wednesday, LaBarge was sentenced to 10 years with 8 years suspended for involuntary manslaughter and 12 months with 12 months suspended for reckless driving
Clark’s wife Melanie gave a very emotional impact statement during the sentencing. Melanie says the last conversation she had with her husband was over the phone and during that conversation, Clark got the call to respond to the single car crash. The last thing he said to her was that he loved her and she said “I love you and be careful.”
Melanie says family members later called her asking if she heard from Brad. Then she saw a post on Facebook asking for prayers for Station 6. She says she knew it was Brad because she “felt it.” She immediately drove to Station 6 where she learned that her husband had passed.
Fighting through tears as she spoke on Wednesday, she told LaBarge “I extend forgiveness to you.”
Clark’s father, Robert Clark, said he worked on his victim statement for two years because he wanted to send a message but not be cruel to the driver.
“My son was amazing,” Clark said. “I was a firefighter for 30 years with Henrico and I was very excited that he decided to choose the same career as I did, but he did it a lot better than dad.”
Robert added he is relived the process is over and didn’t expect the driver to get a long sentence.
“I think it will have an effect on other drivers that happen to drive trucks, hopefully it’s a wake up call for them,” Robert said. “But him serving time in jail doesn’t help our situation a whole lot but I do feel very relieved that it’s finalized.”
LaBarge passed up the opportunity to address the court. His attorney said LaBarge had a lot to say but was not confident he could say it well.
“I’m disappointed, but everyone has their limitations and I’m not gonna pass judgement on him,” Robert said.
The defense team plans to appeal LaBarge’s sentence. Another hearing will take place on Dec. 28 at 11 a.m. to order the appeal and discuss a new bond.