Two Fire Fighters Die and Three Fire Fighters Injured in a Fire Apparatus Crash—West Virginia

 

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

F2018-08 Date Released: August 23, 2019

Executive Summary

On March 24, 2018, a pumper, Rescue 111 from county Fire Station 11 crashed while enroute to a report of an accident with injuries on an interstate. A 46-year-old assistant chief and a 40-year-old lieutenant died when the pumper struck a rock outcrop that paralleled the roadway. The 46-year-old fire chief (the fire apparatus operator), a 59-year-old fire fighter and a 17-year old junior fire fighter were injured. Fire Station 11 was dispatched by the county 9-1-1 center (Metro911) at 1733 hours for an accident with injuries on an interstate. At approximately 1741 hours, Metro911 received notification of a fire truck rollover. At 1742 hours, this information was updated that “a fire truck had crashed into a rock wall.” County Medic 147, who was responding behind Rescue 111arrived on scene at 1743. Another pumper, Engine 113, from Fire Station 11 was responding and arrived on scene at approximately 1744 hours. The fire apparatus operator of Engine 113 and the county medics immediately started to assess the patients of Rescue 111. One fire fighter (lieutenant) was found deceased on the ground at the tailboard of Rescue 111 near the shoulder of the roadway. County Medic 147 advised the county dispatcher at 1747 hours there was one fire fighter fatality and two fire fighter injuries. The fire apparatus operator of Rescue 111 was unresponsive. At 1751 hours, this information was updated to another injured fire fighter was trapped between the pumper and a rock outcrop that paralleled the roadway. County Fire Station 12 Engine 122 arrived on scene at 1752 hours. They assisted with patient care and removing the two injured fire fighters from Rescue 111. County EMS personnel and a fire fighter from Engine 122 removed the fire apparatus operator from the pumper and placed him on a stretcher for transport in Medic 147. The junior fire fighter was standing on the engine cowling of Rescue 111 and was removed via an attic ladder. He was moved to Medic 64 for transport with minor injuries to the local trauma center. The fire fighter (left jumpseat) was trapped between the pumper and the rock outcrop. He was given advanced life support (ALS) care during the extrication process. Fire fighters were able to crawl through the cab of Rescue 111 and gain access to the fire fighter. An extrication tool was used to move the pumper approximately 3 – 4 inches away from the rock outcrop and allowed the injured fire fighter to be lowered onto a backboard and removed. He was then transported in Medic 141 to the local trauma center. The extrication process was completed by 1829 hours. During the extrication process, fire department members from county Fire Station 11 located the assistant chief, who was deceased. He was located on the right side of the pumper in the ditch line between the rock outcrop and Rescue 111. The assistant chief and lieutenant were pronounced deceased at 1902 hours.

Contributing Factors

  • Failure to wear seat belts
  • Distraction of the fire apparatus operator
  • Speed of the apparatus
  • Road conditions – wet roadway
  • Limited space between the roadway, roadway shoulder, and the rock outcrop

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should require a written standard operating procedure (SOP) for the use of seat belts is implemented and enforced while riding on any fire department apparatus or vehicle
  • Fire departments should ensure the vehicle operations training program includes topics such as road design, road conditions, and driving during inclement weather
  • Fire departments should ensure that fire apparatus operators are trained in techniques for maintaining control of their apparatus at all times
  • Fire departments should ensure all members that operate fire apparatus meet the requirements set forth in NFPA 1002, Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications.

 

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Page last reviewed: September 3, 2019