After a year, 2009 where we saw a dramatic decrease in Line of Duty Deaths we now come to July 2010 where we find ourselves asking “Are we still really not getting it, that seatbelts really do save lives, yes even firefighters lives? July saw many significant vehicle crashes that resulted in at least three line of duty deaths, a firefighter that at this writing is still suffering from serious injuries along with a civilian seriously injured and the death of an unrestrained civilian all involved in the same crash.
First in Pennsylvania a firefighter in his POV pickup truck was ejected and killed while responding to a fatal head on collision between two civilian vehicles. Details are that the firefighter hit a guardrail and then over steered, causing the pickup truck to travel sideways across two southbound lanes of traffic and up onto another guardrail. After riding the guardrail the truck rolled over landing up right in the southbound lanes about 300 yards from the original crash he was responding to. This firefighter was not wearing his seatbelt, was ejected and found 15 feet away from his vehicle.
In Ohio a few days later A firefighter was traveling in his personal vehicle while responding to a mutual aid bowling alley fire when a civilian driver stopped at a stop sign then pulled in front of the firefighters POV and than the civilian vehicle attempted to make a quick turn where the firefighters vehicle struck the rear of the civilian auto and the firefighters vehicle ended up into a tree. The firefighter was not wearing a seatbelt however the vehicle’s airbags did deploy on his 2004 GMC pickup truck. He suffered severe incapacitating injuries and is listed in critical condition. It is unknown at this time whether the driver of the civilian vehicle was wearing a seatbelt or not but it is known that for whatever reason the civilian vehicles air bag system did not deploy. However a passenger in that civilian did not have a seatbelt on and was ejected and killed.
In Virginia two firefighters were killed when their fire apparatus while responding to a house fire crashed into an SUV, flipped over several times and landed on a car at an intersection. It is believed that the fire apparatus had the red light and swerved to avoid the SUV and rollover three times. One firefighter was actually ejected and then had the apparatus land on top of him and was crushed by the apparatus; neither of the firefighters were wearing seatbelts and both were killed in the line of duty. It turns out that the call was actually for a working house fire that the fire apparatus never arrived to and the driver of the apparatus was the fire chief and the towns vice mayor. To all of the families and the fire departments involved we send our sincerest condolences. For the rest of us we urge you to please wear your seatbelts!!
Also a Pennsylvania firefighter has been charged in a crash that happened in early July when he lost control of his fire apparatus with a beer in his hand, you cannot make this stuff up and rolled the Mack tanker with a blood alcohol content of 0.16. A passenger riding in the apparatus at the time of the crash said the driver had purchased a 30-pack of beer from a local beer distributor, before heading back to the fire station and another fire apparatus driver told police that he saw the driver of the Mack apparatus driving with a can of beer in his hands. The driver is being charged with DUI, drinking while under age and reckless driving among other related offenses.
Yet another Pennsylvania firefighter was charge when he was driving 75 mph and passing other vehicles with his emergency lights flashing when his private vehicle struck a motorcyclist head-on killing the motorcycle operator. Police say that there was no emergency at the time and they have charged the firefighter with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and other crimes resulting from the crash last August 9th.
Finally in another incident a firefighter standing on an aerial ladder looking for hot ambers from a fireworks display had bones in both feet broken when the aerial ladder was somehow retracted!!!!!
Most if not all of these incidents were absolutely totally preventable if we would follow safe accepted practices that we have been preaching in this column for years. Aerial Ladders are to climb on and access places not hang out if you need an observation platform then call or buy a tower ladder that is what they are built for. Come to a complete stop at all stop signs, red lights, red flashing lights or yield signs. Do not engage in any fire department activities or responses with any drugs or alcohol in your system period. Do not be a response vehicle when it is unnecessary to do so. Finally wear all of the safety equipment that is provided for you especially seatbelts.
One complaint that I receive frequently from fire chief’s I have a mandatory seatbelt policy and they still will not buckle up? Then chief stop giving them permission to stand up and get dress in the cabs by purchasing raised cab roofs on your fire apparatus cuzz chief whether you want to admit it or not by you buying raised cab roofs on your apparatus you have subliminally given your permission to ride around and get dressed without seatbelts.
Next month in this column we will have a guest columnist that will make a huge announcement as it relates to seatbelts in the New York City Fire Department.
Finally as we go to press we have been advised that two firefighters in Canada were killed in the line of duty when they were returning from wild land firefighting duty lost control of their apparatus, it rolled over and it appears that they were not wearing seatbelts.
By Michael Wilbur