On Saturday afternoon, a fire apparatus overturned and crashed into a restaurant in Copacabana neighborhood, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The crew was responding to a dumpster fire, when they were allegedly cut by a taxi, what caused the driver to lose control of the truck. Four FFs and a civilian were injured and taken to the hospital.
Frayed cables and a defective pulley are at the heart of a 62 page report detailing what caused three Hall County (GA) firefighters to fall 40 feet to the ground, as the ladder truck they were training on collapsed.
The report is below.
Investigators believe damage to one of the cables existed “prior to the accident” and that the cable’s pulley – or sheave – was “worn, damaged or improperly manufactured.” In one picture included in the report, you can see the sheave is too small, and unable to fit the cable that’s supposed to run through it.
The truck was once owned by the Bluffton Township Fire Department in South Carolina. In four years, Bluffton says it tried six times to fix problems with the ladder and extension cables and eventually lost all confidence in the truck, due its catastrophic and consistent failures.
The truck manufacturer, Sutphen, agreed to buy back the truck. Three months later records show, it sold the truck to Hall County, with the promise it would be restored to factory specifications.
Hall County says it was told the truck was returned to Sutphen due to a “dispute involving maintenance issues” and that the truck had never “had a design failure.”
The county now says both of those statements were false, but has still agreed to settle instead of take the company to court.
In a confidential agreement, obtained through an open records request, media learned Sutphen agreed to buy back the truck for $505,000, the same amount the county paid when purchasing it. But in doing so, it does not admit any wrongdoing. The company has repeatedly declined media request for comment.
An internal investigation summary concluded, “there is no evidence that anyone with Hall County had prior knowledge of any prior equipment failures involving Sutphen vehicles, thus decisions to move forward with the purchase of the vehicle were made in good faith.”
Media asked the Bluffton Fire Chief if anyone had tried to contact them for more information. Chief Payne said he was “unable to locate any evidence or documentation to the effect that any member of (his) department was contacted by or had spoken with any representative of Hall County prior to the unfortunate incident.”
REPORT & COVER LETTER:
HERE IS MORE MEDIA COVERAGE:
A fire apparatus struck and killed a pedestrian earlier this evening in Gaston County, N.C. It happened in Ranlo around 1800 hours. Reports are that the apparatus struck and killed a pedestrian-but the Firefighter/driver was not at fault and will not be charged. It is believed that alcohol was involved.
Our thoughts go out to all but especially the Firefighters involved.
Bad crash out of Ohio this morning–fire companies were operating on the Ohio Turnpike near Youngstown earlier today. Initial reports are that a tractor trailer that was carrying cars was involved-lost control, crashing into or near the apparatus. Apparently the car hauler crashed and lost some cars-impacting the Cardinal Joint Fire District apparatus already operating on a scene. There were heavy fire conditions and because the apparatus was struck-and not usable, the members attempted to fight the fire and attempt rescue using extinguishers. There was one civilian fatality in what appears to be a third, separate, driven vehicle,The crash happened on the turnpike at mile marker 222 about 1130 hours this morning between Lordstown and Youngstown near the Kirk Road overpass.where the car hauler collided with the Cardinal JFD fire truck.Some FF’s were injured but non life threatening.We’ll have more later, KTIYP’s.
There are few things more synonymous with firefighting than the loud, anxiety-inducing siren of an approaching fire engine.
But are those ubiquitous sirens also damaging the hearing of the men and women who ride the trucks?
More than 190 Buffalo firefighters think so, and have filed suit seeking damages for their injuries.
The suits, which are similar to civil cases filed by firefighters in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago, claim the companies that made or used the sirens “knew or should have known” they were harmful.
“The sirens are too loud,” said Marc J. Bern of Manhattan, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, “and the firefighters can’t get protection.”
The lawsuits – 20 are now pending in Buffalo federal court – seek an unspecified amount in damages for each of the 193 firefighters named in them. Filed in state court in September, they recently were moved to federal court by the six defendants.
“All parties are entitled to have their rights determined by the judicial system, and that applies to defendants as well as plaintiffs,” said Anthony J. Colucci III, a lawyer for Pierce Manufacturing, one of the defendants.
This is not the first time firefighters have sued over a loss of hearing.
In early 2011, Federal Signal Corp., a manufacturer of fire engine sirens, announced a settlement with 1,125 firefighters represented by one of the lawyers in the Buffalo case.
Under that settlement, the company offered to pay $3.8 million, but characterized the offer as a “favorable development.” The Illinois-based manufacturer cited its success in obtaining defense verdicts in cases that went to trial and its track record in getting other suits dismissed by the court.
The settlement offer amounted to an average of $3,380 for each of the firefighters.
“Federal Signal has strong defenses to these claims, and we are committed to defending our siren products and litigating these cases as necessary,” said Jennifer Sherman, chief administrative officer and general counsel for the company, at the time. “Sirens are necessary public safety products and save lives.”
Bern alleges that his clients were subjected to a harmful work environment and, in court papers, suggests that several factors contributed to their hearing loss, including a truck compartment that by design invited excessive noise. He also says the compartment lacked adequate sound insulation.
In the 2011 announcement of the Federal Signal settlement, a lawyer for the 1,125 firefighters called the offer a satisfactory resolution and acknowledged the difficulty in winning the hearing loss cases.
“Years of litigation and several trials have brought both sides to the point where settlement makes sense,” said Joseph Capelli, one of the lawyers in the Buffalo case. “After extensively investigating fire departments in various states and handling several hundred individual firefighter cases, I have concluded that most firefighter claims are complicated and challenging cases to win.”
The other defendants in the lawsuits are American LaFrance, Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Seagrave Fire Apparatus and Mack Trucks, all of Pennsylvania.
The link between noise and hearing loss in firefighters dates back decades.
In 1992, then-U.S. Fire Administrator Olin L. Greene, the nation’s top fire official, said noise is probably “the most underrated health hazard” for firefighters and emergency service personnel.
“The cases of hearing loss are irreversible and incurable,” Greene said at the time. “They are also preventable.”
More recently, a University of California study in 2007 found 40 percent of all firefighters were at risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
The study of more than 400 firefighters from 35 fire departments in California, Illinois and Indiana also found that firefighters use ear protection devices – ear muffs and ear plugs – only about a third of the time.
“That protection has not been provided,” Bern said, “because fire departments don’t have the money.”