02-28-2007, 10:57 PM #1
- Join Date
- May 2000
- Wheaton IL
Responder charged with vehicular Homicide
While looking for additional info about todays FDNY ladder 123 crash I came across this:
State Trooper Is Charged With Vehicular Homicide
By KAREEM FAHIM
Published: February 28, 2007
A state trooper whose patrol car slammed into a minivan last September in southern New Jersey, killing two teenage sisters on their way home from buying milk, was charged yesterday with two counts of vehicular homicide, the authorities said.
The trooper, Robert D. Higbee, 34, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. A spokesman for the state attorney general said that Trooper Higbee, who has been on administrative duties since the crash, would be suspended without pay pending the outcome of his trial.
“I think it’s what’s fair,” said Maria Caiafa, the mother of the two girls, 17 and 19. “I was very frustrated, and that frustration is not going away.”
Ms. Caiafa and several witnesses to the crash had been critical of the pace of the investigation.
In a statement, a spokesman for the state police, Capt. Al Della Fave, said: “The investigation into the fatal accident involving Trooper Higbee has been thorough, meticulous and professionally performed. The Cape May prosecutor’s office was given full access to every detail of the case to ensure an objective investigation.”
The charges against Trooper Higbee grew in large part from evidence investigators recovered from his patrol vehicle’s onboard computer, known as a black box, which captured the car’s speed and the rate of acceleration before the collision as well as other data, the authorities said.
Several witnesses to the crash, which occurred about 10 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the intersection of Stagecoach Road and Old Tuckahoe Road in the Marmora section of Upper Township, said they saw Trooper Higbee’s patrol car run a stop sign at a high rate of speed — like a “white streak,” one person said — before it slammed into the Dodge minivan carrying Ms. Caiafa’s daughters, Christina Becker-Caiafa, 19, and Jacqueline Becker-Caiafa, 17. The Dodge then struck another minivan, whose occupants, along with Trooper Higbee, were slightly injured.
Trooper Higbee, who had worked for the state police for six years, received a summons in October for careless driving and failure to stop.
About 25 seconds of data on the black box were retrieved by employees of the Ford Motor Company and turned over to investigators. Prosecutors declined to discuss the data in detail, but J. David Meyer, an assistant prosecutor, said that the rate of speed at which Trooper Higbee was traveling represented a “reckless disregard for the safety of others.” Mr. Meyer also said that grand jurors heard evidence that Trooper Higbee had been trying to pursue a speeding car.
The trooper’s lawyer, D. William Subin, released a statement that said: “There was never any intention nor any conscious, deliberate act on the part of Trooper Higbee. He never deliberately disregarded or endangered a human life. He was doing his sworn duty, attempting to close the distance between his troop car and a violator of the law. Simply stated, this case belongs in an administrative and-or civil court.”
David Jones, the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, said that Trooper Higbee had an unblemished service record, and, in a statement, criticized the decision.
“It sends a message to everyone in law enforcement that despite the rules that are in place, if you make an honest but tragic mistake, you will be fighting for your freedom just for trying to do your job,” he said.
In a telephone interview from her lawyer’s office, Ms. Caiafa said she had finally returned full time to her job as a middle school principal this month.
She said she moved in with her parents after the deaths of her only two children.
“My kids were my life,” Ms. Caiafa said, “and I don’t have a life.”
The mindset has to change, this article could have been about the brothers from Brooklyn and their crash today. In both cases drivers going to fast to avoid an accident ran stop signs / lights.
Driving the rig is the single most important duty we have. It does no one any good if we are involved in an accident on the way to the call. If you can't slow down and drive with due reguard for others safety don't drive at all.
03-01-2007, 12:11 AM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
- Lansing, KS USA
I totally agree. We must get out of the mind set that everyone will see us and pull over immediately. No matter how serious the emergency is when you come to a stop sign or red light, you MUST slow enough to stop quickly or come to a complete stop. The article about the trooper said nothing about whether the individual he was trying to chase was doing anything more than speeding. Not that it would really matter in this situation. The same for the FDNY crash, I don't know all the particulars so it is tough to say who is at fault. It sounds as if the apparatus was going too fast for the intersection and did not assure that motorists were yeilding the right of way. It is sad when this happens because the individuls driving the emergency vehicles are not vicious people. They just made a terrible mistake. A preventable mistake at that. Only through training and more training can we prevent this. As an officer I have a few times had to tell the driver to calm down and slow it down some. Some individuals get so worked up on a call and topping that with the adrenaline rush one gets when running lights and siren, they tend to go faster and drive careless. When I am driving and am on a busy road I do not go over the speed limit. Only when I have an open road will I push it a little more. Most of these accidents can be prevented. There is always the chance of someone else causing it and even then we must be on the look out for idiots on the road. As is a practice in many departments the officer is getting on his gear while responding. When he is doing this he can not help the driver look out for traffic. This must stop also. It takes less than a minute to don an air-pak and the officer needs to have his attention on other things. I hope that everything works out for those drivers as they will have a tough time of it.Vintage Firefighter: The older I get, the braver I was.
03-01-2007, 12:37 AM #3
Driving the trucks is a very big responsibility! You have a lot of choices to make while enroute to the scene. I stop at all stop lights and all most all stop signs. The life of your fellow firefighters is in your hands every time you're behind the wheel and one bad decision could change everything forever. And you allways have to be watching out for the other drivers on the road as they don't pay any attention what so ever even if you're in a big red fire truck with lots of flashing lights and sirens.
03-02-2007, 09:01 AM #4
- Join Date
- May 2003
- SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
Safety behind the wheel!
Is it ok if an outsider from Australia buys into this?
I've been a professional firefighter for 25 years,an officer for 10 of those and have driven and ridden in almost all of the available apparatus available,from 4WD to 30 ton aerial platforms over those years under response conditions and "normal" driving.
I am also a certified Highway Patrol Instructor
Now like all of us I'm not perfect [just ask my wife!] and,like all of us I can tell old war stories of high speed runs that both exhilarated and terrified,sometimes simultaneously.
I was also the Departmental Driving Instructor and certifier for 9 years and had to teach the bright young things the "do's an don'ts" before they were certified as able to drive.
Now these guys and girls were only certified as able to drive "under supervision" for 3 months before a rigorous examination to enable them to drive on responses.
The issue of safety is only as good as the Officers in charge allow it to be. I'm talking about the line Officers the ones who sit in the "death seat".
If they allow the drivers to speed stupidly and fly through intersections without some restraint then ultimately 1 of 2 things will happen;
1. they will become a statistic in the Departments Honor Roll
2. they will have to justify their inaction to the coroner
It's a sad fact that a seconds indecision,or a split second decision can be followed by months and years of court appearances and possible jail time.
Lawyers will lie in wait and pick apart every small decision [with the luxury of hindsight and data from sources everywhere] just so that they can prove that in that split second the firefighter was negligent.
Like a lot of oldtimers I got scared too many times when drivers trod the line a bit carelessly.
Now [while you have to be careful about perceived undue criticism] I have no problem with telling my drivers to slow down and take it easy.
Better to be a live crusty old bastard than a name on an honor roll on a wall somewhere!
03-02-2007, 02:39 PM #5
- Join Date
- Apr 2005
- Las Vegas,Nevada
With all of the electronic brain boxes becoming a part of the vehicle systems today there is information that can be gotten to use in the courts. In our case the GPS tracking systems attached to the units can actually provide data that could be used to calculate speeds etc. Better safe than sorry and better to take a little longer to get there than not get there at all.
03-08-2007, 03:53 PM #6
- Join Date
- Feb 2007
That happened here in southern Nevada. State Trooper driving 119 MPH down the freeway to get home so he could take a test for an online college coarse. slames in the back of a car driving 59 MPH and kills four and injuries a fifth. Lost his job and got 2 years in prison. I don't think that is justice, but whatever.
03-10-2007, 07:43 AM #7
- Join Date
- May 2003
- SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
Justice like fluid runs downhill
I guess that's the problem,training and skill and superb reactions count for nothing when you're up in the court.
All the police I know [and have known] are usually responsible and damned good drivers. But like a lot of people they believe that the red and blue lights render them invulnerable.
It's too easy too believe this when traffic is melting out of your way when you're responding.
We have all had runs in our larger trucks that seem too damned easy,everything goes our way and we slide through like grease through a well fed goose.
But these days with loud stereos and cell phones and better insulated cars etc. the average driver is constantly exposed to extraneous distractions [not to mention drugs and alcohol] which render them blind deaf and stupid.
Then the onus is on the responder to ease back and attempt to do the driving for everybody else as well.
The problem with justice is that it looks at the results,not the causes. The case of the stupid Police driver is relatively clear cut. The fact is he shouldn't be doing what he was. The result is god knows how many lives ruined, not only the dead but the injured and their families in addtion the wife and family of the trooper must live with his decisions and their terrible results.
Elsewhere when a case gets to court the results stand and the penalties are paid on the results.
The causes are less clear cut and many times the workmates,the Officers and all are left thinking that maybe if they said something simple,something as easy as "hey slow down" then the whole dirty mess wouldn't have happened.
Having sat on review panels and looked at Departmental Accidents it is never easy to second guess a driver. SOPs are great for guidance but unless you're
actually seeing what the driver sees and having the emotional feedback he is at the time of the accident you're working from secondhand evidence.
So justice is fluid, just make sure you don't get caught in the flood as it flows downhill faster than up!
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