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Volunteer Fire Fighter Dies in Tanker Crash En Route to Grass Fire – Indiana

FF ShieldDeath in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation

F2012-30 Date Released: March 17, 2014

Executive Summary

On November 11, 2012, a 26-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (the Victim) was killed when the tanker he was driving crashed en-route to a grass fire. The Victim drove his personal vehicle to the fire department from his residence upon hearing his department dispatched to the scene of a grass fire. Upon arriving at the department, approximately seven minutes after other fire department members responded, he readied Tanker 64 to respond. He asked other members if they wanted to go with him but they declined saying enough resources were already en route. He boarded the tanker and left the station with lights and siren activated. The apparatus crashed approximately five miles from the department. The Victim was ejected and suffered fatal injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Crashed Tanker

Photo of the crashed tanker at the incident scene.
(Photo courtesy of the police department)


Contributing Factors

  • Seat belt – an unrestrained driver risks losing control of the vehicle and being ejected
  • Speed – travelling too fast for required maneuvers such as turning, stopping, swerving
  • Roadway intersection protocol – not coming to a stop and then proceeding with caution
    risks a collision
  • Tanker weight and characteristics – high center of gravity and possible weight shifts
    affect turning maneuvers and stopping distance
  • Unnecessary emergency response.

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should ensure that all persons responding in emergency apparatus are wearing, and restrained securely by, seat belts at all times the vehicle is in motion
  • Fire departments should provide training to driver/operators, incorporating specifics on rollover prevention and maintaining vehicle control
  • Fire departments should ensure that all fire service vehicles are operated safely, taking into consideration the type of emergency and route of travel to the scene
  • Fire departments should develop emergency response deployment protocols to prevent resources from unnecessarily responding, unplanned or unknown, to an emergency scene
  • Fire departments should ensure that a thorough scene size-up is conducted, incident command is established, and risks are assessed and managed throughout an emergency incident
  • Fire departments should develop policies and procedures that assist with determining replacement cycles for existing fire apparatus
  • Fire departments should develop policies and procedures, mission and vision statements, and training programs, which promote an institutional safety culture that ensures that all members are empowered to report unsafe practices or actions.

Read the full report

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1998, Congress appropriated funds to NIOSH to conduct a fire fighter initiative that resulted in the NIOSH “Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program” which examines line-of-duty-deaths or on duty deaths of fire fighters to assist fire departments, fire fighters, the fire service and others to prevent similar fire fighter deaths in the future. The agency does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of fire departments and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the victim, the fire department or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit.

For further information, visit the program Web site at or call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).