Three years after Miami-Dade firefighter recruit Wayne Mitchell died during a training exercise, some fire officials are now facing disciplinary action.
In August 2003, Mitchell went into a burn room in Port Everglades, which was meant to simulate the smoke and fire he might face in a real emergency.
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According to an investigation, some of his instructors fled the burn room because of the heat. Mitchell became disoriented and overwhelmed. He collapsed inside and later died.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Herrera was the on-site training commander that day.
A review panel concluded that he and others were responsible for major lapses in communication, supervision and judgment that day. Miami-Dade Fire Chief Herminio Lorenzo said he moved to fire Herrera.
"He was told the recommendation of the panel was going to be termination and that was the disciplinary action that was going to take place," Lorenzo said. "The chief reason is that one person lost his life in that incident, an incident that you were responsible for."
Herrera, a 30-year veteran, said he'd retire a year or two early instead of being fired. Two other former chiefs did the same.
But for Mitchell's family, the long-awaited discipline seems hollow.
"And now they walk away and retire but get to go home to their families, get to have their holidays, get to do everything in life. He's gone. He's gone from my family," said Mitchell's sister, Chrissy Mitchell.
At least one of the instructors in the burn room at the time, Capt. Jerome Byrd, is still facing a recommended two weeks' suspension even though he told NBC 6 and his superiors that recruits were being pushed too hard, too quickly at the time of Wayne Mitchell's death.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said it has overhauled training procedures and supervision, and is on the verge of building its own state-of-the-art training facility.
"They have to make sure that everyone around them is safe. That is their No. 1 responsibility," Lorenzo said.
Herrera did not return NBC 6's calls for comment. Byrd did not comment Wednesday because his disciplinary action is not finalized.
Groundbreaking on the new training facility, which will be named for Mitchell, is scheduled for early 2007.
- February 2, 2006: Probe Blames Command Breakdown For Fire Recruit's Death
- September 13, 2005: Panel Says Lack Of Safety Plan Led To Fire Recruit's Death
- August 19, 2005: Panel Stops Short Of Assigning Blame In Fire Recruit's Death
- August 2, 2005: Deliberations Begin In Investigation Of Fire Recruit's Death
- July 14, 2005: Family Asks Review Board For Action After Fire Recruit's Death
- June 28, 2005: Fire Captain Blames Instructors For Recruit's Death
- June 14, 2005: Fire Officials Testify In Hearing Over Recruit's Death
- June 13, 2005: Fire Officials Answer Questions About Recruit's Death
- March 22, 2005: Questions Raised During Hearing Into Fire Recruit's Death
- September 14, 2005: Death Under Fire: Followup
- February 28, 2005: "Death Under Fire" Second Follow-Up
- February 9, 2005: Follow-Up: Death Under Fire
- November 12, 2004: Death Under Fire
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