Trial Begins in Fatal Texas Training Accident

Testimony in the case of a Kilgore firefighter who was killed along with a colleague during a training exercise more than three years ago began on Wednesday and focused on the absence of safety belts in the aerial bucket from which they fell.

The family of fallen Firefighter Kyle Perkins is alleging gross negligence against apparatus manufacturer E-ONE and distributor Hall-Mark Fire Apparatus in the Jan. 25, 2009 incident that claimed his life and the life of Firefighter Cory Galloway and is seeking unspecified punitive and other damages, according to The News-Journal.

The lawsuit was separated from a consolidated lawsuit that includes Galloway's family and the city and is still pending.

The two men were among four firefighters on the 18-square-foot aerial platform of the department's new HP 95 Mid-Mount Platform Truck as it was raised to the roof of an eight-story dormitory at Kilgore College.

The platform snagged on a 24-inch parapet on the building's roof and Perkins and Galloway fell through the bucket's door -- which is designed to only open inward -- when it was pulled free.

All of the firefighters in the bucket lacked safety belts.

The testimony revealed that E-ONE instructor Doug Fleming did not bring or use a safety belt during a presentation he gave firefighters when the truck purchased in December 2008 was delivered.

During the trial, Fleming was shown a company memo that told instructors to wear a safety belt when demonstrating the aerial bucket so that the customers learn by example.

In response, he replied: "Well, they should know that."

Kilgore firefighter Robert King testified that no one had worn a safety belt when the company demonstrated the ladder truck during a sales pitch.

Amanda Gummer, Marketing and Communications manager for E-ONE, told on Thursday that the company does not plan to comment on the allegations surrounding the trial.

The case -- which is before an eight-woman, four-man jury in the courtroom of 124th District Judge Alfonso Charles in Longview -- is expected to last into next week.