Mike Wilbur


A failure to wear seat belts and speeding on wet road conditions were factors contributing to a 2018 apparatus crash that killed two West Virginia firefighters and injured three others, according to a line-of-duty death report.

The report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was released Friday, and it dealt with an accident on March 24, 2018, involving a Pratt apparatus.

In that incident, a pumper carrying Pratt’s fire chief, assistant chief, a lieutenant, a firefighter and a junior firefighter hit a rock outcrop parallel to the road while on the way to another accident, according to the report. The apparatus rolled over, and Assistant Chief Michael Edwards, 46, and Lt. Tom Craigo, 40, were later pronounced dead at the scene. Chief Timmy Walker—who was driving the pumper—firefighter Billy Hypes and junior firefighter Kyle Jenkins were injured in the rollover.

Friday’s report included four contributing factors for the accident. Those were:

  • Failure to wear seat belts
  • Distraction of the fire apparatus operator
  • Speed of the apparatus
  • Road conditions – wet roadway
  • Limited space between the roadway, roadway shoulder, and the rock outcrop

After investigating the incident, the report also offered four key recommendations not just for Pratt but other fire departments, as well. Those included:

  • Departments should require a written standard operating procedure for the use of seat belts while riding on any apparatus or vehicle.
  • Departments should ensure a training program for vehicle operations that includes topics such as road design, road conditions and driving in bad weather.
  • Departments should ensure that apparatus operators are trained in techniques for maintaining vehicle control at all times.
  • Departments should ensure all apparatus operators meet the requirements set forth in National Fire Protection Association 1002, Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications.

The full report can be read at the CDC website.

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