Woman Guilty in Fatal Fire Truck Crash in Missouri

A Jackson County jury Wednesday found LaDonna Davis guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter in a crash that killed a Kansas City firefighter.

Gerald McGowan, 57, died on Sept. 5, 2004, when Pumper No. 33 smashed into two cars and then hit a tree. The pumper was answering a fire call.

Prosecutors said Davis, 38, caused the crash because she did not pull over for the approaching fire truck, despite its sirens and flashing lights.

Several firefighters testified that Davis' car was ahead of the fire truck on Blue Ridge Boulevard near 81st Terrace, and that, without using her blinker, Davis pulled into the path of the pumper. The fire truck hit Davis' car, then hit another car, jumped a curb, hit a wooden telephone pole and slammed into a tree.

Investigators later discovered that the pumper had faulty brakes. However, prosecutors said even good brakes might not have prevented the fatal wreck.

Prosecutor James Kanatzar said there is no happy ending in the case.

"We're pleased by the verdict, but that's minimized by the tragedy of the situation," Kanatzar told KMBC.

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Fire officials would not comment on the verdict, saying there was a pending civil suit in the case.

Davis faces up to four years behind bars.

KMBC's Martin Augustine reported that McGowan was a firefighter for 32 years and was only months away from retirement when he died.

"He was going to get a fishing boat and planned to do a lot of fishing," said Margaret McGowan, Gerald's wife. "We miss him. My kids miss him -- the grandkids will never know him."

Gerald's son, Mike, is also a firefighter, and he said he'll miss his mentor.

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"I'm just walking in his footsteps, basically," Mike McGowan said. "He was always able to calm me down, or, you know, to tell me I did the right thing or I didn't do the right thing."

The family said it's been a tough year and a half, and they're pleased someone is being held accountable in Gerald's death.

"The truck would have made it to that fire that day and it would have made it back home again. And my husband would be home the next morning at 7 o'clock, just like he had come home every morning for 32 years," Margaret McGowan said.

Gerald's family said they want all motorists to remember to pull over or stop when you hear a siren.

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