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Lieutenant and Police Officer Struck and Killed at an Interstate Crash Scene, Firefighter Injured and Dies 34 Months Later – Texas

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

F2020-09 Date Released: May 2024

Executive Summary

On January 11, 2020, a 39-year-old lieutenant and a city police officer were struck and killed while on-scene at of a motor vehicle crash in the northbound lane of an interstate near a bridge crossing over a city street. A firefighter/paramedic was also struck and severely injured at this incident. The firefighter/paramedic died on November 27, 2023. Battalion 810, Engine 2, and Engine 4 were dispatched at 0822 hours. Truck 4 was dispatched at 0825 hours. The police department dispatched two officers – 31B1 and 31C1 at 0824 hours. Engine 2 arrived on scene at 0834 hours and advised Dispatch, “Engine 2 is on scene of a two-vehicle crash. We do have one vehicle on its side (a pickup truck). Engine 2 officer will have Command and continue the assignment.” At 0835 hours, the lieutenant from Engine 2 advised Dispatch there was no entrapment and Engine 2 could manage the incident. At 0836 hours, Battalion 810 advised Dispatch that Battalion 810 and Truck 4 would be clearing the scene. Police officer 31B1 arrived at 0836 hours and Police officer 31C1 arrived at 0838 hours. Engine 4 stayed on scene to block for Engine 2. Both Engine 2 and Engine 4 were located in the left lane (passing lane or Lane 1) northbound on the interstate near a bridge. Police officer 31B1 was with the overturned pickup truck at this time. At approximately 0848 hours, members of Engine 2 witnessed a vehicle traveling northbound on the interstate strike the bridge and then another vehicle. This crash happened approximately 200 feet north of Engine 2 and Engine 4 on the downside of the bridge. Engine 2 advised Dispatch there was a secondary crash on the overpass and Engine 2 was checking for injuries. At 0848 hours, as members of Engine 2 were walking towards the second crash, a pickup truck traveling southbound lost control and crossed through the center median. The pickup struck police officer 31B1. The pickup truck became airborne and rolled. It hit the ground throwing debris and crossed the northbound lanes striking the Engine 2 lieutenant and firefighter/paramedic. The impact caused the lieutenant to slide across the roadway. The pickup truck continued down an embankment, across an interstate access road, and landed in a cotton field. At 0849 hours, the officer of Engine 4 advised Dispatch that two firefighters and a police officer had been struck by a vehicle on the interstate. Engine 4A (a lieutenant) requested a full structure response and three ambulances to this incident. At 0851 hours, Engine 5, Engine 1, Engine 10, Truck 4, Battalion 810, and Battalion 820 were dispatched to the interstate. Engine 6 and Engine 13, who were enroute to the fire training center, were added to this incident. Engine 4A requested the Texas Department of Transportation respond to close down the southbound lanes of the interstate. Engine 4 was positioned across both northbound lanes to close the highway. Engine 4A assigned resources to patient care for the injured firefighters and police officer. E4A and E4B (equipment operator) started patient care on police officer 31B1. E4D (jumpseat) and E2D (jumpseat) started patient care on the E2 firefighter/paramedic. Engine 4C (jumpseat) and E2B (equipment operator) started patient care on the lieutenant from E2. Ambulances arrived on-scene to assist with patient care. A paramedic confirmed with E4A, who was also a paramedic, that police officer 31B1 was deceased. Truck 4 arrived on scene at 0900 hours and parked on the interstate access road. The captain from Truck 4 and a firefighter assisted with patient care of E2A. The two other members of Truck 4 provided patient care to the driver of the pickup truck located in the cotton field. The firefighter/paramedic from E2 and then the lieutenant from E2 were transported by ambulance to the local trauma center. The lieutenant of E2 was declared deceased at 0929 hours at the trauma center.

Contributing Factors

  • Weather conditions
  • Actions of the pickup driver
  • Lack of continuous scene size-up and risk assessment
  • Lack of forecasting
  • Insufficient traffic incident management (TIM) procedures
  • Task saturation of the IC
  • Lack of safety officer
  • Lack of a digital alerting system for motorists
  • Lack of median barriers

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should develop pre-incident plans regarding deployment for highway/roadway incidents. These pre-incident plans should include establishing a temporary traffic control zone, maintaining scene safety, and proper traffic control for highway/roadway emergency work zones
  • Fire departments should ensure that a continuous scene size-up and risk assessment is conducted and are continuously assessed and managed throughout a highway/roadway emergency incident. This creates and ensures a functional incident action plan.
  • Fire departments should ensure incident commanders forecast the direction of the incident early on, in order to build an incident action plan (IAP). Forecasting should be a continuous process until all resources have cleared the incident scene
  • Fire departments should ensure that incident commanders utilize traffic incident management (TIM)procedures. Fire departments should participate in local, regional, and state TIM response protocols with law enforcement, public works departments, and state department of transportation
  • Fire departments should ensure that all members receive annual training for conducting emergency operations at highway/roadway emergency incidents. Training should include identifying the lack of median barriers and the potential for crossovers.
  • Fire departments should ensure that incident commanders appoint a safety officer when operating at a highway/roadway emergency incident
  • Fire departments should utilize a digital alerting system to notify civilian drivers by vehicle navigation applications that they are approaching both enroute and on-scene emergency vehicles.
  • Governing municipalities (federal, state, regional, and local) should consider installing median barriers that separate opposing traffic on a divided highway that are prone to crossovers or frequent crashes. Fire departments should support this process based upon their deployment and response to divided highways incidents.

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