A well-known, retired U.S. Navy master chief and Vietnam War veteran died Saturday morning in an explosion and fire in the garage at his home in the Nixonton community.
T.C. Oneyear, who had been active in Post 6060 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was confirmed as the deceased by post spokesman Dan Serik. Condolences to Oneyear's family were also starting to appear on Oneyear's Facebook page on Saturday evening.
Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright declined to provide the victim’s name, saying he wanted to make sure the man's next of kin were notified. Cartwright said his information was the man was at least 70 and said his information was the man had retired from the Navy.
Cartwright said the man was pronounced dead at the scene, which was in the 100 block of Quaker Drive, in Small Acres, just off Little River.
The first radio reports from the Central Communications dispatcher were broadcast to emergency personnel shortly after 8:40 a.m. VFW Post's 6060 spokesman Serik said he received word of the incident in the morning from a friend and said the post is devastated.
Serik said Oneyear “was truly loved by many of us, by all of us. He was a patriot and a dedicated member of the post.”
“I loved the hell out of the guy,” Serik said. “He's going to be missed.”
Cartwright said the garage was a two-story structure detached from the residence. He said the explosion's impact lifted the roof and the doors off the garage, broke windows in the back of the residence and also melted siding at the back of the residence.
He said a State Bureau of Investigation arson investigator will be assisting with a probe of the incident.
According to Cartwright, arriving deputies learned from witnesses that Oneyear had gone to his garage to get ready to cook something and was knocked back by the explosion. Cartwright said Oneyear’s wife was in the residence at the time of the incident.
"They were actually getting ready to cook for family members who were coming in from out of town," he said.
Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services officials said firefighters from Elizabeth City, Nixonton and Weeksville were at the scene. Cartwright said no one else was injured, as far as he knew. Cartwright said he doesn't recall a fire-related death in Pasquotank from such an explosion.
Oneyear served in the Navy from 1962-92, and was in the “Brownwater Navy” during the Vietnam War.
He was also assigned to Task Force 116 as a participant in Operation Game Warden, a U.S. operation launched in 1965, which was designed to deny the Viet Cong waterway access to the Mekong Delta. Oneyear had a vest and matching beret he wore as a member of Gamewardens Association Inc., a Vietnam veterans group for participants of Operation Game Warden.
Oneyear, who grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, also was serving off the coast of South Vietnam in April 1975, as part of Operation Frequent Wind, which was the U.S. military evacuation of Americans and South Vietnamese. He said he was aboard the USS Dubuque, which was picking up refugees.
Oneyear was one of the speakers at the November 2011 grand opening of the Elizabeth City Veterans Affairs Primary Outpatient Clinic, which is in the City Center West commercial area just off Halstead Boulevard Extended. He had spent several years lobbying to have a veterans clinic built in northeastern North Carolina.