Debate Rages Over Boston Firefighter Autopsies


There is a heated debate over whether an autopsy report on two fallen Boston firefighters should have been released to the public.

Now that the information is out, there are questions about how it will affect the extent of the investigation and fire department procedures.

NewsCenter 5's Sean Kelly reported that the autopsy results for the fallen firefighters open a new dimension to the already difficult investigation.

Toxicology reports shown to authorities revealed that Paul Cahill's blood alcohol level was above a 0.2 and that Warren Payne had traces of cocaine in his sytem.

"It has to be looked into. As painful as it is for the families involved in this given situation what would be even more tragic is the next time it happens," said Kathy Notarianni, the head of the Department of Fire Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Notarianni is also married to a retired firefighter.

"You may be causing an additional risk to yourself or the people you're sworn to protect and to your partner that you're going in with," she said.

Experts say impairment should have been noticeable to the firefighters' superiors.

"I think their superior officers who allowed them to go out and participate in this operation ought to be called to question for this," Professor Thomas Nolan of Boston University said.

Boston Fire Commissioner Rod Fraser said he's "disappointed by allegations of substance abuse ... " and he's "reviewing drug testing procedures and that substance abuse cannot be tolerated."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expressed outrage that the reports were released, but agreed that a review is necessary.

"I will order a stem to stern look of our procedures and practices of our fire department," Menino said.

One area fire chief said it's impossible to monitor everything that goes on but that it would help if department supervisors had more training to recognize substance abuse problems.