Chisholm Trail Fire Rescue Chief Mark Padier knows how much community meant to fellow firefighter Nick Zoulek.
Born with “a servant’s heart,” Zoulek wasn’t shy in offering to help out anyone and everyone he could. From his family and friends, to those he served with on the fire line, Zoulek always thought of others before himself.
Often, Padier recalled Zoulek inquiring about incidents and whether someone – anyone – was on the way to respond.
“He always helped out in any way he could,” Padier said.
It’s that selflessness Padier and many in the community remember about Zoulek, who was the victim in a fatal Aug. 31 three-car collision along State Highway 21 near Niederwald.
According to a Texas Department of Public Safety press release, authorities were dispatched around 4:20 a.m. Aug. 31 on SH 21 east of Niederwald.
According to the report, a 2010 Ford pickup truck, operated by Zoulek, was traveling southbound on SH 21 when, for unknown reasons, it collided head-on with a 2008 Jeep Wrangler that was operated by Jazmine Garcie-Montelongo, 23, of Dale. The Jeep then spun and struck a 2016 Nissan Sentra driven by Aljandro Villegas Alejandre, 39, of Elgin.
Zoulek was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. He was identified by fellow CTFR officials who responded to the wreck.
Garcia-Montelongo “self-extricated” herself from the vehicle and was taken by her parents to Seton Medical Center Hays. Alejandre was transported to Seton Medical Center Hays by Luling EMS. The conditions of Garcia-Montelongo and Alejandre are unknown at this time, according to DPS officials.
Padier said only he and two other CTFR firefighters were on scene when they discovered Zoulek was killed in the wreck. Padier said they immediately canceled calls for more CTFR assistance, and enlisted the help of the Kyle Fire Department.
Zoulek’s death, however, has been difficult for members of the CTFR. While some are starting to accept the “finality” of the incident, Padier said some are still “waiting to see him walk through the door.”
Zoulek, a three-year veteran of the CTFR, immersed himself in the role of a first responder. He was a certified member of a SWIFT water rescue team, and had been taking advanced extrication classes.
He was also deeply involved in family life, Padier said. Zoulek was active with his son’s Boy Scout troop, and regularly helped teach his son’s basketball team.
In addition, Zoulek was part of the Dads On Guard (DOG) safety group at his children’s school.
Over the course of the next few days, Padier said he plans to enlist the help of the Hays and Caldwell County Critical Stress team to offer additional assistance to CTFR first responders.
“You know there is a hole there and you don’t know how to fill it,” Padier said.