NIOSH Urges Caution After Ohio LODD

NIOSH investigators say a number of factors led to the death of an Ohio firefighter last year.

Ryan Neil Seitz, 26, was killed instantly when a pressurized water tank exploded and struck a hose reel. Part of that hose reel struck him in the head, according to the report released Thursday.

Seitz, a volunteer with McArthur Fire Department, had joined just over a month before and was scheduled to take his mandatory 36 hour training class in November.

On the day of the fire, others showed him brush firefighting basics such as raking a fire break, the NIOSH investigators determined.

NIOSH investigators noted that the department had obtained the Humvee from Ohio. However, it had previously been at another fire company.

Among the contributing factors determined after the probe include use of a self-made water delivery system without an over-pressurization safety relief mechanism and inappropriate system components; limited written operating procedures and policies; the pressure gauge on the water delivery system was inappropriate for its intended use and limited training in the use of the equipment.

NIOSH investigators wrote: “The force of the explosion caused the bottom of the tank (closest to the rear end of the vehicle) to separate from the rest of the tank. The tank was pushed forward into the dashboard, breaking the pneumatic airlines and connections in multiple locations. The Humvee's front windshield was shattered. The bottom of the water tank was propelled into the motorized hose reel. The force ripped the hose reel's mounting bolts through the Humvee's bed. The hose reel struck the vehicle's tailgate and then flipped over the tailgate, striking the victim. The victim was thrown backward approximately 20 feet, and was killed instantly. The hose reel came to rest in close proximity to the victim while the end of the water tank was propelled into the woods…”

Among the recommendations, they said: “Fire departments should ensure that fire suppression equipment is properly designed and safe for its intended use and refrain from using self-made equipment that does not meet applicable safe design standards and practice.”

Fire officials also should be aware that there are a number of grant programs available to assist with the purchase of vehicles and equipment.

Further, they noted: “Standard setting organizations should consider developing design and test requirements for pressurized air-over-water delivery systems for wildland fire suppression operations.”

Also, the investigators said: “Fire departments should ensure that all vehicle retrofits are completed by a qualified source and that retrofits are designed and installed within the original manufacturer's specifications.”