Report: Unfamiliarity of Aerial Platform Truck Key Factor in Texas Firefighter Training Deaths

Read NIOSH Report

KILGORE, Texas -- Investigative findings into what caused a fatal eight-story fall by two Kilgore firefighters from the elevated aerial platform of a fire truck Jan. 25 on the Kilgore College campus were released Thursday.

Key contributing factors to the incident, identified in the investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, were:

Firefighters being unfamiliar with the controls on the newly purchased aerial platform truck, training in a "high risk" scenario before becoming familiar with new equipment, failure to use fall restraints, the design of the platform railing and integrated doors and the location of the lifting eyes underneath the platform which contributed to the platform snagging on the building's parapet wall.

Firefighters Kyle Perkins, 45, of Kilgore, and Cory Galloway, 28, of Grand Saline, fell approximately 83 feet to the ground, according to the report.

It cited pathologist findings that the immediate cause of death for both victims was "blunt force injuries" resulting from an accident.

They were participating in a training exercise to familiarize fire department personnel with the newly purchased 95-foot mid-mount aerial platform, the NIOSH fatality report stated.

Describing how the accident happened, the report said four firefighters were standing in the aerial platform which had been raised to the roof of Stark Hall, an eight-story dormitory building.

"The platform became stuck on the concrete parapet wall at the top of the building," the report stated.

"During attempts to free the platform, the top edge of the parapet wall gave way and the aerial ladder sprang back from the top of the building, and then began to whip violently back and forth. Two of the four firefighters standing in the platform were ejected from the platform by the motion."

Kilgore Public Safety Director, Chief Ronnie Moore, scheduled a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Kilgore Police Department to discuss the report.

The NIOSH report, dated Monday and released Thursday by Kilgore Police Department, said investigators concluded fire departments should take the following steps "to minimize the risk of similar occurrences" in the future:

  • Ensure firefighters are fully familiar with new equipment before training under "high risk scenarios."
  • Ensure fall protection is used whenever firefighters and other personnel are working in elevated aerial platforms.
  • Follow standard operating procedures for training, including the designation of a safety officer.
  • Ensure standard operating procedures covering the operation and use of fire apparatus (including aerial platform apparatus) are developed and followed during training exercises as well as in fire suppression activities.

Also, NIOSH recommended manufacturers ensure that aerial platforms and other aerial devices are designed to reduce or eliminate the potential for snagging on buildings or other elevated surfaces and design aerial platform doors or gates to prevent opening in the outward direction.

According to the report, NIOSH's Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, which examines deaths of firefighters in the line of duty, became aware of the fatal accident through the national media the following day and was also notified by the U.S. Fire Administration.

NIOSH contracted a fire service consultant knowledgeable in fire apparatus operations, performance and equipment requirements to assist in the investigation and sent two NIOSH engineers and the consultant to meet Feb. 4 with representatives of Kilgore Fire Department, the city's insurance carrier and the fire apparatus manufacturer.

The investigation included inspecting, photographing and measuring the platform, driving the apparatus to the site and raising the aerial platform to the roof of the dormitory. The NIOSH engineers and consultant also interviewed Feb. 12 firefighters who participated in the training. The investigators reviewed the fire department's standard operating procedures, building information and training records for the victims.

According to information obtained by NIOSH, Kilgore Fire Department received delivery of the newly manufactured 2008 model, 95-foot mid-mount aerial platform apparatus on Nov. 19, 2008, and each of the three duty shifts -- including the fall victims -- received a factory-authorized training program of approximately eight hours in December.

Fall protection was not used during the training, firefighters interviewed by NIOSH said. Each shift later practiced and drilled with the new apparatus, the report stated.

Prior to the accident, two groups of firefighters had been in the platform and raised it to the roof where they walked around before lowering it.

Republished with permission of The Tyler Morning Telegraph.

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