Death in the Line of Duty

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program continues to present its investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths...


Editor’s note: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program conducts investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. The program does not seek...


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Editor’s note: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program conducts investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. The program does not seek to determine fault or place blame on fire departments or individual firefighters, but to learn from these tragic events and prevent future similar events. NIOSH is a unit of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Firehouse® Magazine is pleased to join with NIOSH in presenting this valuable information. It is important to note that while some incidents that will be described here occurred several years ago, the information presented is valuable today. The accounts that follow are summaries of NIOSH investigations. The complete reports are available on the program website at www.cdc.gov/niosh/firehome.html.

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NORTH CAROLINA

SUMMARY
On March 17, 2000, a 31-year-old career firefighter/engineer died after the apparatus (Truck 1) that he was driving collided with an Amtrak train at a railroad crossing. The victim was returning to the station after a false alarm. Responding in addition to Truck 1 were Squad 1, Engine 2, Engine 11, Engine 1, Squad 3 and the battalion commander (BC-1). Truck 1 stopped behind a civilian vehicle on the west side of a railroad crossing consisting of three sets of tracks. The safety gates at the crossing were down, the warning lights were activated and a freight train was moving slowly. The freight train stopped after it cleared the crossing to wait for a signal ahead. Truck 1 started to go around the first safety gate and over the track. Witness 1, in a vehicle behind Truck 1, saw a tanker car at the end of the freight train that obstructed the northbound view of the tracks, and he heard a train whistle. Witness 2, waiting in a vehicle on the east side of the crossing, saw a southbound Amtrak train approaching. He also saw Truck 1 driving around the first safety gate, so he honked his horn and flashed his headlights to warn the driver. Truck 1 continued around the safety gate and traveled into the path of the train, which struck the truck’s left front corner and the bucket of the aerial ladder. The victim was ejected, landing behind the truck’s left rear dual wheel. He was killed instantly.

CAUSE OF DEATH

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fire departments should ensure firefighters follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) and state motor vehicle codes for safely driving and operating emergency vehicles.


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MISSOURI

SUMMARY
On Jan. 17, 2000, a 47-year-old volunteer fire chief died after he lost control of the truck he was driving, and the truck rolled three times and came to rest on an embankment. The victim lost control of the truck as he approached a slight curve in the roadway. The truck began to skid, and the right tires traveled onto the shoulder. Continuing on the shoulder, the truck entered a ditch, became airborne, crossed a lane on a side street and struck a center median. The truck crossed a second lane on a side street, struck a guardrail and flipped end over end until it landed in a concrete culvert. The victim was killed instantly.

CAUSE OF DEATH
The death certificate lists the cause of death as massive neck trauma and upper chest trauma.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fire departments should ensure all apparatus are kept under a maintenance schedule that is documented.


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NEW YORK

SUMMARY
On March 7, 2002, a 28-year-old male volunteer firefighter (Victim 1) and a 41-year-old male career firefighter (Victim 2) died after becoming trapped in a basement. Victim 1 manned the nozzle while Victim 2 provided backup on the handline as they entered the house. After they entered the structure, the floor collapsed, trapping both victims in the basement. A career captain joining the firefighters near the time of the collapse was injured trying to rescue one of the firefighters. Crew members responded immediately and attempted to rescue the victims; however, the heat and flames overcame both victims and eliminated any rescue efforts from the garage entrance.

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