WEST FELICIANA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - On January 17, West Feliciana Parish lost a man that made a living out of rushing to a stranger's aid.
"He believed that helping people is what you're supposed to do," said Walter Oliveaux, Assistant Chief at West Feliciana Fire Protection District 1. "That's what he was doing when he lost his life, helping other people."
Chief Deputy of W. Feliciana Fire Protection District 1 Russell Achord was struck by a car in the southbound lane of Highway 61 while responding to another crash. He later died at a hospital. His friend and colleague, Assistant Chief Oliveaux, was in Florida when he got a call saying that a first responder was involved in a crash.
"We knew who was there, but we didn't know the person injured," Oliveaux said.
Dealing with the pain that a first responder was hurt on the job is hard enough, but finding out it was a close friend is a tough pill to swallow.
"Everybody's got their time to go. I didn't think that it would be that way," Oliveaux said. "I expected to see him this week and next week, it's hard to take."
But this wasn't the first time this veteran first responder had a brush with danger. Oliveaux said Achord has been a fighter for years. One time, he was hit and injured in an ambulance wreck while transporting a patient during his paramedic days.
"Russell got out though, even though he was injured and rendered aid. He saved some lives. Russell was about service," he said.
That service was almost cut short after a tough fight with Lymphoma.
"There wasn't a question that he would beat cancer, he knew," Oliveaux said.
Assistant Chief Oliveaux said his friend, who was also a former police officer and volunteer firefighter with decades of experience, was just getting back into a groove of serving the community and working side by side with his "big brother" and look-alike.
"My brother from another mother. We resemble each other somewhat," Oliveaux said jokingly. "I don't know anybody that didn't like Russell, can't say the same for me. But I don't know anybody that didn't always have good things to say."
Friends said Achord's larger than life personality left them with countless good memories and a legacy to work towards.
"I'm going to remember him for being a good friend and being my little brother," Oliveaux said. "I'm going to miss him and so is everybody in this building and most of everyone in this parish."
Chief Deputy Achord is survived by his wife and two children.
Achord's funeral was held Monday, January 22 with hugs, tears, and a brotherhood standing at attention. The funeral service was held at the First Baptist Church in St. Francisville. His flag-draped casket was loaded in a white fire truck draped in black.
"Russell Achord was a great guy. If there was ever an award to be given for an all around champion first responder, it would be Russell," said West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Austin Daniel.
"Not only was this man a firefighter, he was an EMS professional and he was a law enforcement professional," said Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning.
The 48-year-old spent seven years working with EMS. He was also the deputy sheriff at the West Feliciana Sheriff's Office before he joined the fire department.
"It takes a piece away from everybody who wears that badge, no matter if it is law enforcement, no matter if it is firefighters, no matter if it is EMS," said Browning.
Firefighters stood guard over Achord as he was escorted to his final resting place in a long procession that included fire departments from all over the state, law enforcement officers, and EMS workers.
"I just want to thank all the departments from all over the state and beyond who have been reaching out today to honor Russell and what he meant to his department and to his community and his willingness to serve and give of himself to his community," said Baton Rouge Fire Deptartment Chief Ed Smith.
Achord is a man remembered for dedicating his life to service, a man who is gone, but not forgotten.