Best friends to the end

February 12, 1993

The Times

Best friends to the end

By Leslie E. Gornstein

Staff Writer

HOPEWELL BOROUGH — It wasn’t unusual for David Hutchin-son and his buddy Keith Combs to hike near the 26,000-volt power line that killed both of them Wednesday.

Only the misjudgment that apparently caused Combs to momentarily grab the line was out of character. Neither was the type to take stupid risks, several of their friends said yesterday.

‘Hutchinson, a promising engineering student and volunteer fire-fighter, was electrocuted only two days before his 20th birthday, which would have been today. He died trying to snatch his buddy, Combs, away from a live power line. The two 19-year-olds had been hiking in Cradle Rock, a popular spot with Hopewell Valley youth.”

(Keith) had a lot of common sense,” said Chris Duffe, who knew…

Combs for three years and Hutchin-son for 13. “He had it together.”

Duffe, 21, called both Combs and Hutchinson “nature nuts,” young men who enjoyed outdoor activities ranging from rock climbing to mountain biking — people who were far from accident-prone.”

(Dave) never looked for trouble,” said Duffe, who served with Hutchinson as a volunteer firefighter with the borough fire department. “He was careful. I don’t think we’ll ever really know what happened.”

Hutchinson was a sophomore at Trenton State College. He and Combs, best friends who graduated together from the Hopewell Valley Regional High School in 1991, were good students with bright futures. The men will be buried side by side on Monday.

“DAVE WAS going to school for engineering, and Keith got a job right out of high school and had just bought a new truck,” Duffe said. “(Keith) was always talking about going places and doing things, and then this happened.”

Duffe said he felt especially close to Hutchinson because they served together at the fire department. “He was always gung-ho,” Duffe said, adding that Hutchinson was a sparkplug in the fire company, telling jokes to keep spirits up while fighting fires.

Members of the Hopewell Fire Department remembered that Hutchinson led the other volunteers.

“He was quiet, yet authoritative with his juniors, never boisterous or loud,” remembered fire Chief Lawrence Omland.

Hutchinson joined the volunteer squad when he was sixteen, serving as a junior foreman for the next two years.

“He was always willing to pitch in and help,” said Emergency Medical Unit Capt. Patty Phillips, who tried to resuscitate the two men. As she began to labor over Hutchinson, she didn’t recognize him. When she did, she doubled her efforts.

“You just never expect to find someone you know,” said Phillips, whose medical unit shared the building with Hutchinson’s fire company. “I’ve worked on people I’ve known before, but nothing like this.”

C.J. Henry, 17, said he got to know Combs and Hutchinson through Greg, Hutchinson’s 17-year-old brother. Hutchinson is also survived by his 10-year-old brother, Kenny.

“(Dave) was always looking out for his youngest brother,” Henry said. “He’d take Kenny out with him wherever he went.”

HENRY SAID he spent Wednesday night at the Hutchinson home, where the sadness is slowly settling in.

“Things will be all right for a while and then somebody will show up at the door and the cycle will start all over again, with everyone getting upset,” Henry said. “It’s really hard to talk about. I was up all last night.”

“They were pretty tight,” Henry said of the two climbers. “They were always doing things together.”

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