Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2009-04, 2009 Aug; :1-22
On December 31, 2008, a 24-year-old male career fire fighter (the victim) was fatally injured and another fire fighter (officer) was seriously injured after the victim lost control of the fire truck he was driving, struck a utility pole, and overturned in a ditch. The fire truck, with a crew of three fire fighters, was responding to a reported chimney fire when the single-vehicle crash occurred. The crash occurred as the fire truck was traveling through an intersection with pavement grade changes occurring at the intersection. Georgia state police investigators determined that the fire truck was traveling too fast for current road conditions. The victim was pinned between the driver's seat and the roof of the apparatus, upside down with his seat belt fastened. The officer, who was seriously injured in the crash, was not wearing a seat belt and was briefly trapped. The officer and third crew member (fire fighter riding in the jump seat) initially tried to assist the victim before the arrival of other rescuers. The victim and the officer were transported to a local hospital where the victim was pronounced dead. Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include: driving too fast for conditions, removing seat belts while the vehicle is in motion, insufficient training on intersections and difficult road conditions, driver inexperience with this specific apparatus, and lack of rollover protection. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. ensure that fire fighters and officers are trained in maintaining safe control of responding fire apparatus; 2. ensure that SOPs on seat belt use are enforced; 3. provide training to driver/operators as often as necessary to meet the requirements of NFPA 1451, 1500, and 1002, with specific training on intersections and difficult road conditions; 4. ensure that drivers have experience in the class of vehicle they are expected to operate; 5. consider rollover protection for the crew areas of fire apparatus when upgrading or purchasing new apparatus. Fire apparatus manufacturers, researchers, and standard setting bodies should continue to improve fire truck safety standards and designs for increased crashworthiness. Additionally, federal and state departments of transportation should consider modifying or removing exemptions that allow fire fighters to not wear seat belts.