As you may recall, there was a crash involving a responding California fire apparatus last June. The Poway firefighter driving the fire apparatus that broadsided that Honda Accord — after the drug-impaired driver of the Honda ran a red light — hadn’t yet passed a test qualifying him to operate the vehicle, according to a wrongful death claim recently filed by the parents of a 19-year-old woman killed in the crash.
Who knows how this tragic event will turn out-but here-once again-the qualifications of the firefighter driving the apparatus is in the spotlight. Take a look at the below info and then apply it to your own department-just in case.
The claim — also asserts the fire truck wasn’t using its siren at the time of the crash.
The deadly collision occurred when the driver of the Honda — 45-year-old Robbie Gillespie — ran a red light while heading south about 4 a.m. June 20.
The fire apparatus, responding to a medical call, was heading east on a local road when it struck the car. In the Honda’s passenger seat was 19-year-old Evelyn Jean Courtney, who died at the scene.
Gillespie had bailed out of jail for a drug arrest just a few hours before the crash and was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the accident. He faces a prison sentence of 10 years and eight months pending a competency hearing later this month.
However–Attorney Michael Kinslow — representing Courtney’s parents, Charles and Teresa Courtney — acknowledged Wednesday that Gillespie shoulders some of the blame for the accident. But he said that doesn’t excuse the firefighters who he says should have taken more care.
There were four firefighters on the truck that morning, according to the claim. Engineer/Paramedic Josh Fernandez was the official engineer on duty.
However, at the time of the crash, “Fernandez and Capt. (Andy) Page were allowing someone who had not yet passed the engineer’s exam to drive the truck — (firefighter/paramedic) James Kleppel,” the claim states.
“If the person who was actually licensed and certified to drive the truck had been doing so, the accident might have been avoided,” Kinslow said Wednesday during an interview. He also said while the fire engine apparently was traveling with its emergency lights on, it was not sounding its siren. he said that a minute earlier the engine’s sirens were sounded when it left the station because the fire crew had seen traffic in the area.
“The failure of the crew of the fire truck to use due care in the operation of the truck was the proximate cause of my daughter’s death,” the claim concludes.
This is not easy-and many departments have allowed “not yet certified/qualified” members to drive at various stages of their training. This is a good reminder to review your training policy and procedures with your legal folks to make sure everyone knows who can do what, where and how-and when not to as well.
RELATED DRIVER TRAINING RESOURCES:
http://www.fireengineering.com/topics/apparatus-driver.htm (Fire Engineering)
http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo28031.PDF (EFO Paper)
Take Care. Be Careful. Pass It On.
The Secret List 2/13/14-0700 Hours