Nebraska Boating Accident Claims Area Firefighter and His Brother

By PAUL GARBER Published: July 06, 2011 An area firefighter who as a youth was praised for helping his family to safety during a fatal shootout near Kernersville in 2004 has died from injuries he received in a Nebraska boating accident that also killed his younger brother. Matthew McAlexander, 19, and his brother, Joshua B. Rowley, 12, were on a tube being pulled by a boat early Sunday evening on Sherman Reservoir in central Nebraska near Loup City when they were injured after the boat pulling them was struck by a pontoon boat, according to statements from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Joshua died at the scene. McAlexander died Tuesday morning. They were the sons of Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Rowley, who was injured in the shootout on Vance Road outside of Kernersville seven years ago. Rowley’s father-in-law was killed during that incident. “This family has been through so much,” Sheriff Bill Schatzman said. “It’s hard to understand. It’s hard to articulate the sadness.” McAlexander was a firefighter and emergency medical technician with Piney Grove Volunteer and Rescue on Vance Road, at a station not far from where he ushered family members to safety during the shootout on the road. McAlexander was just 13 when his father responded after a man on their street went on a shooting rampage. Rowley, recalling the incident a few weeks later during a news conference, called his son a hero. When Rowley left their home to confront the gunman, he told McAlexander to take his younger siblings downstairs to safety. “I told him, ‘You get the kids to the basement and don’t come out for anybody or anything.’ And that’s exactly what he did,'” Rowley said. Although neighbors went downstairs to get him, Matthew didn’t come out until he heard from deputies that he knew. Rowley’s father-in-law, James Johnson, 59, died in the shootout, as did two other people — Reba Idol, 65, and her son-in-law, Dwight Allen, 41. Rowley was shot in the arm and had a grazing wound to his throat. He was also shot in the chest, but a bulletproof vest stopped that shot. The gunman, Denny C. Booth, was shot in the neck and shoulder. Booth, now 65, pleaded guilty in 2008 to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. He is serving a life sentence. Fire Chief Joseph Martin of the Piney Grove department described McAlexander as a go-getter who enjoyed firefighting. Joshua was a rising seventh-grader at Kernersville Middle School. McAlexander was a 2010 graduate of East Forsyth High School and was studying fire protection at Forsyth Technical Community College. A memorial service for both victims will be held Thursday in Grand Island, Neb., said Forsyth County Chief Deputy Brad Stanley. A funeral will be held here, but those plans haven’t been finalized yet. Schatzman said he expects the Rowley family to return to Forsyth County this week. The 39-year-old driver of the Nebraska pontoon boat was arrested on suspicion of boating under the influence, but has been released from jail. He could face charges pending the outcome of a blood test, according to statements from the parks commission.

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