Report Says Brakes Were Faulty On Firetruck Invloved In Accident; September Crash Killed Missouri Firefighter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A fire truck involved in an accident that killed a veteran Kansas City firefighter had faulty brakes, according to a police report.

Acting captain Gerald McGowan, 57, became the 100th Kansas City firefighter killed in the line of duty when the pumper crashed into a tree in early September. Four others were injured.

A police report, obtained by The Kansas City Star on Wednesday, said the truck's brakes were ``out of adjustment'' and that the 35,400-pound pumper could have stopped 70 feet before hitting the tree if they had worked properly.

On Thursday, the city issued a statement saying it ``had no knowledge, or reason to believe, that any of the brakes on this fire truck were out of adjustment on the day of this accident.''

The statement also said that because the city expected to be involved in litigation stemming from the accident, it had placed the fire truck in storage so it could be examined.

The accident happened Sept. 5 when a car turned left in front of the fire truck. The driver of the truck hit the brakes as the pumper struck the car's left front corner. The truck then skidded across asphalt, struck a stopped car and hit a tree. Three other firefighters and the driver of the second car were treated for injuries.

The driver of the first car, LaDonna Davis, 37, was unharmed, but she has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and driving while her license was revoked. The police report noted that even if the truck's brakes had been properly adjusted, it could not have avoided hitting Davis' car.

Prosecutors said the brake troubles were not relevant to their case against Davis, who told police she did not see or hear the fire truck approaching.

``When a driver puts an accident into motion by failing to yield and turning in front of a fire truck, they become responsible for anything that happens in that accident,'' said spokesman John Liebnitz. ``The driver is responsible for all foreseeable and nonforeseeable consequences.''

The police report said that if the pumper had been considered a commercial vehicle, it ``would have been in violation'' of federal law and ``placed out of service,'' meaning it would have to be repaired before returning to service. Government vehicles are exempt from commercial vehicle inspection.

The Fire Department has said it has two employees who perform most repairs, but some work such as transmission and brake jobs, is done by outside shops.

This is not the first time questions have arisen about maintenance of Kansas City Fire Department vehicles.

City Auditor Mark Funkhouser warned in a 1991 report that there wasn't adequate preventive maintenance and vehicles were too old. A 1995 audit found that little had changed.

In 1996, so many of the Fire Department's aerial trucks had mechanical and safety problems that the department used a 30-year-old truck that had been mothballed.

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