PHOENIX — Relatives of a young family who died in a fire truck crash in April have filed a wrongful death claim against the City of Phoenix.
ABC15 obtained the claim, dated July 3, which alleges the Phoenix Fire Department was negligent and asks for a $25 million settlement.
Phoenix Fire Engine 18 was headed to a fire alarm call on April 7 when it crashed into a pickup truck on Bethany Home Road at 29th Avenue. The engine rolled over into a schoolyard, and the pickup was crushed. Kenneth “Chase” Collins, 20, his girlfriend, Dariana Serrano, 19, and their infant son, Kenneth, all died in the pickup. All three firefighters on the engine were injured.
The claim, filed by a lawyer representing Serrano’s mother, said, “This is a tragedy that could have and should have been avoided.”
Initially, Phoenix police said the fire truck was heading to a fire call at a Walmart with lights and sirens on when the pickup truck turned left in front of the firefighters. According to the family’s claim, “Standard Operating Procedures dictate that the truck did not automatically have the right-of-way.”
The claim states that negligence by the firefighters operating the truck and their supervisors led to the three deaths.
“This negligence includes, but is not limited to, failing to safely, prudently and reasonably operate the fire truck, driving the fire truck at an unreasonably high rate of speed, violating the Arizona Motor Vehicle Code, failing to make any evasive action, negligent hiring, retention, supervision, training and entrustment, and ratification,” the claim said.
A police report about the crash has not been released to the family or the public. A fire department spokesman told ABC15 its own internal investigation won’t begin until the police investigation is complete. The department did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
ABC15 learned in June that the Phoenix fire chief’s nephew, Paul R. Kalkbrenner, was the driver of the fire engine involved in the crash.According to public records obtained by ABC15, Kalkbrenner was hired by the Phoenix Fire Department in 2011. He indicated that his aunt is Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner, and he has other relatives that also work for the department. It is unclear whether Paul Kalkbrenner has returned to duty since the crash.
“It is certainly the family’s prerogative to file a notice of claim,” said P.J. Dean, a spokesman for the United Phoenix Firefighters union. “Given that the final accident report has not yet been released, we are uncertain on what basis a legal action would be warranted. It is our understanding that all preliminary findings of the accident investigation indicated there was no culpability by our members in this very tragic event.”