Jury: Texas FD, Apparatus Maker at Fault in '09 LODDs

A jury on Monday found both the Kilgore Fire Department and apparatus manufacturer E-ONE equally at fault in a 2009 training exercise that resulted in the deaths of two firefighters.

The decision ended the eight-day wrongful death trial that began on May 3 in which the family of Kilgore Firefighter Kyle Perkins sued E-ONE for gross negligence in the tragic incident that occured on Jan. 25, 2009.

Perkins and Firefighter Cory Galloway 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 parapet wall on the building's roof and Perkins and Galloway fell through the bucket's door as it was pulled free.

All of the firefighters in the bucket lacked safety belts.

On the trial's final day, Defense Attorney Keith Slade recalled for jurors that the 2008 delivery invoice indicated the fire department was aware safety belts had not come with the ladder truck but were needed, according to The News-Joural.

"Before the truck was even delivered, the city of Kilgore Fire Department was aware and cognizant they were going to have to get safety belts and put them in this truck," he said.

The eight-woman, four-man jury voted 10-2 that E-ONE was at fault.

E-ONE attorney Randy Akin told Firehouse.com that the jury awarded $615,000 to Perkins' family.

Since the fire department had workers' comp., it cannot be sued and will not have to pay anything out of pocket while E-ONE will owe $307,500 plus interest.

Akin also noted that while the jury found gross negligence, since the verdict was not unanimous, under Texas state law the finding is invalid and will likely not stand.

"The lesson learned by all involved in this case is that a firefighter should never get into or on an elevated bucket or ladder without using a proper safety harness or belt," he said. "The use of one in this case would have prevented this tragic accident."

Following the verdict, Aiken told The News-Joural that it is unlikely the company will appeal the verdict.

"We wish they didn't find liability (on E-ONE's part)," he said. "But this keeps the damages way down, so we're satisfied with that."

E-ONE is set to return to court in June for a lawsuit brought by Galloway's family.