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Volunteer Fire Fighter Struck and Killed by Tanker Backing into the Bay of the Fire Station – Pennsylvania

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

F2016-16 Date Released: January 11, 2018

Executive Summary

On July 23, 2016, a 60-year-old male volunteer fire fighter died when he was struck by a tanker backing into the bay at the fire station. The volunteer fire department had been assisting the community in a motorcycle benefit for a children’s cancer organization. At 1130 hours, the fire department placed three of their apparatus at different route locations to control traffic for the motorcycles riding in the benefit. Approximately 2 hours later, when the event had concluded, Tanker 72 returned to the fire station. The driver was attempting to back into Bay 3 when the fire fighter, near the station’s man door approximately 30 feet away, walked toward the rear of the backing tanker. A second fire fighter around Side B of the station heard the fire fighter yelling the driver’s name and walked around to Side A to see why he was yelling. The second fire fighter noticed that the tanker’s right rear wheels were on the fire fighter’s left leg and the fire fighter was horizontal on the parking pad of the fire station. The second fire fighter ran to the driver’s door to get the driver’s attention to stop. When the driver stopped the tanker, it had completely run over the left half of the fire fighter’s body. An ambulance was called that arrived within minutes but the fire fighter was pronounced dead at the scene.

Contributing Factors

  • Unknown location of fire fighter near backing apparatus
  • Limited visibility on right side of the apparatus
  • Physical mobility of the fire fighter
  • Impaired hearing of the driver (incident action plan)

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should ensure that standard operating procedures and training for the safe backing of fire apparatus are in place and enforced, including adequate training to ensure fire fighter comprehension.
  • Fire departments should ensure that all fire fighters wear the appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment, including high-visibility clothing that meets the requirements of NFPA 1500 and NFPA 1971.
  • Fire departments should consider equipping fire apparatus and vehicles with rear-view cameras, object-sensing devices, or additional mirrors to assist drivers during backing operations.
  • Authorities having jurisdiction and fire department SOPs should consider including the role and responsibilities of the vehicle spotter along with the role and responsibilities of the apparatus driver/operator when a spotter is deployed.
  • The States should consider establishing minimum training requirements for fire fighters.


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