On May 22, 2010, a Kansas firefighter removed his face piece after vomiting. He was later found by fellow firefighters, and rushed to a local hospital.
John Glaser, 33, of the Shawnee Fire Department, was pronounced dead a short time later. An autopsy determined he died of exposure to combustible gasses.
NIOSH investigators who probed the incident said in a report released this week that Glaser removed his face piece to clear the vomit from the nose cup.
At that time, Glaser also called to his partner, a captain, and indicated he was in trouble, investigators learned.
"The captain called a Mayday and immediately began searching for him," NIOSH officials noted, adding that two RIT teams also joined the effort. Glaser was found 11 minutes later just 24 feet from where he was last seen.
He was not wearing his gloves, helmet or face piece.
After interviewing other firefighters and examining photographs, NIOSH officials said key factors included the victim becoming ill causing a SCBA emergency as well as the separation from his captain. They also said fire growth contributed heavy smoke, zero visibility and heat conditions.
NIOSH issued recommendations they believe may prevent similar incidents. They include:
* Develop, implement, and train on a procedure that addresses what to do if the self- contained breathing apparatus becomes inoperable due to a clogged nose cup, such as with vomitus.
*Ensure that firefighters are trained on primary search and rescue procedures which include maintaining crew integrity, entering structures with charged hoselines, and following hoselines in low visibility.
*Ensure that firefighters are trained and retrained on Mayday competencies.
*Ensure that staffing levels are appropriate to perform critical tasks.