BEL AIR -- When Thomas E. Hicks became a volunteer firefighter five years ago, his mother started a bedtime ritual.
"The last thing I did was I prayed every night for God to bring him home safely," Alice Hicks, a resident of Bel Air, said yesterday. "He took care of him all these years. I guess that's where he is now, with Him. He was a good man."
Mr. Hicks, 44, of Pylesville was killed Sunday night while riding on the back of a fire engine that collided with a car at a northern Harford County intersection. The fire engine flipped over, crushing him and injuring four other firefighters.
Mr. Hicks, an automobile title and tag investigator for the Maryland Department of Transportation, was remembered by family and friends as an easygoing family man who became a volunteer firefighter because of his concern for others.
"He enjoyed public work," said Mr. Hicks' widow, Leslie. "Oh, my God, he loved it. It was No. 10 on a scale of 10. The more there was to do, the more he got involved in it."
"He was a very loving, kind, thoughtful and wonderful son," Alice Hicks said of her son. "I begged him many times to give firefighting up, but it was his love. He loved to take care of people."
Thomas and Leslie Hicks, who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in October, have two young daughters, Holly, 11, and Mary Ann, 7. Mr. Hicks was the sole family breadwinner.
State police said the accident occurred at 9:03 p.m. Sunday when the fire engine, with its siren on and lights flashing, went through a stop sign at the intersection of Routes 136 and 24 near the Pennsylvania border. It collided with a Chevrolet Camaro driven by David Brode Jr., 19, of Fallston.
Mr. Hicks, a Bel Air native, died of massive injuries about midnight Sunday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Four other firefighters were injured. Among them, the most serious injuries were sustained by Irwin Cook, 48, of Pylesville, who was listed in critical condition yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
The other injured firefighters --all of whom were treated at area hospitals and released -- were Cletus N. Heaps, 55, of Pylesville, the driver of the fire engine; Beverly Leftwich, 37, of Fawn Grove, Pa.; and Richard Brooks, 33, of White Hall.
The Camaro's driver, Mr. Brode, was also treated at a hospital and released.
No charges have been filed in the accident, pending a state police reconstruction of the collision.
Mr. Hicks became the second Harford County volunteer to die in the line of duty this year. Tom Weeks of the Level Volunteer Fire Department died in a car accident last summer while responding to an emergency call.
Mr. Hicks was a firefighter at the the Citizen Volunteer Fire Company in Fawn Grove, Pa., which routinely responds to emergency calls from northern Harford County. The flag was at half-staff at the station yesterday.
"He was an excellent firefighter who was loved by his fellow firefighters and the community," said Greg Skinner, a spokesman for the fire company. He said a special memorial service for Mr. Hicks would be scheduled.
Neighbors of the Hickses said they were trying to establish a trust fund for the couple's children. That is only fitting, they said, because Mr. Hicks spent so much of his time helping others.
"He was sweet, jolly, always had a smile on his face," said Diane Hoffman, a longtime family friend. "He was always out there, helping out. If you ever needed anybody, he was there. He was a family man. He took care of everything and everybody."