Louisiana Firefighter Dies in Inspection Accident

A 30-year veteran firefighter was killed on the job in Gretna Monday, in what appears to be a freak accident.

Fire Chief Bobby Black said Firefighter Ralph Arabie, 48, was showing an insurance claims adjustor an aerial view of damages from Hurricane Gustav, using the station's bucket truck.

"He was outside of the bucket, on the back of the truck, standing up and operating the truck at that time," said Chief Black.

Arabie was lowering the boom, when it struck him from behind and pinned him to the truck.

Chief Black says all firefighters are trained on this piece of equipment, and there does not appear to be any mechanical failure.

"It appears to be accidental. We are conducting an investigation," said Deputy Chief of Police Charles Whitmer.

Arabie served the David Crockett Fire Company for 30 years as a paid pump operator and was a Fire Prevention Supervisor for the Gretna Fire Board and also a Gretna Police Officer. He was also instrumental in setting up and conducting fire prevention classes especially for school children and the elderly, according to a department spokesman. He was awarded a Medal of Valor from Fire Chief Bobby Black for outstanding service given to the City of Gretna during Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, colleagues struggled with the sudden loss.

"We called the Critical Incident Stress De-briefing Team in. They are here right now. We're going to gather them together and talk to the firefighters. We have a lot of young firefighters who have never seen anything like this before," Chief Black said.

People who live nearby know the firefighters at the David Crockett Fire Station, and said they are feeling their loss.

"They are our first line, they are our boys, and I'd hate to see that happen to anybody," said Bobby Rice, who lives across the street from the fire station.

"These guys protect our lives everyday, so it's shocking that something happened. It's just devastating," said neighbor Bobbie Boartfield.

The firefighter is one of about 18 paid employees, with a staff of more than 30 volunteers.

Republished with permission from WWLTV.com