SAN ANTONIO --
Two firefighters are still off the job after a rollover accident in a fire truck three months ago that cost the city close to $1 million.
It happened at the intersection of Loop 410 and Culebra Road.
Two fire trucks heading to a fire came out of Station 35 on Culebra Road inside the loop and drove under the Loop 410 overpass.
The first truck, an engine, successfully made the left turn onto the southbound Loop 410 access road, but the ladder truck following it rolled over. In the aftermath, firefighters had to rescue their own as the badly damaged ladder truck laid on its side at the intersection.
"It looked like it was going to land on us," said Ruth Rodriguez, a witness who was in a car at the intersection when the truck rolled over.
She, along with her daughter, Victoria Lopez, and Lopez's fiancé, Ray Montez, were all shocked when the rollover happened. They agreed the trucks were going fast and possibly racing.
"Wherever they had to go to it was very, very important," Rodriguez said. "It was normally a lot faster than I've seen previous."
Montez went a step further. "They were racing," Montez said. "One was going a bit faster but made the turn good. The other one was trying to catch up to it."
Fire Chief Charles Hood said there is no indication that the two trucks were racing and that the driver of the truck that rolled had only minor accidents before. Still, he said this case did lead to changes.
"Every member of that accident has been disciplined," Hood said.
An investigation into the accident showed the ladder truck did not stop where it should have, that seat belts were not being used and that it was caused by excessive speed for the conditions.
The report also showed the ladder truck did not brake, the throttle was held at full open and the speed was as high as 35 mph.
The report's conclusion: the accident was the result of excessive speed and poor judgment.
"Being the fire chief, sitting there looking at it, yeah, I think that it was reckless," Hood said.
Still, Hood said he is using this crash as a teaching opportunity, taking every firefighter to see the crushed ladder 35 truck. It was a loss to the city of more than $800,000.
"We have made sure that those employees know that this can't go on anymore," Hood said.
Since that crash, the fire department has implemented changes that include mandatory seat belt use, a new accident review board and a round trip ticket program where the department pledges to send workers home as healthy as they came to work.
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