A firefighter stands guard at the scene of the West Fertilizer Plant.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Texas LODD Task Force
In April, a small Texas town was rocked by an explosion that claimed 10 responders. Now, it's been shaken again.
Toxicology reports now show that the two beloved West firefighting brothers were under the influence of alcohol and another responder had traces of marijuana in his system.
“They went there to protect the town. In my opinion, they are still heroes. In my opinion, they used their best judgment,” West Mayor Tommy Muska told The Dallas Morning News.
But, he added: “There’s a city policy that you don’t get in a fire truck if you were drinking and you don't go to the fire…"
Muska said while the fire department doesn’t have a written policy regarding response after consumption of alcoholic beverages, it was a common understanding among firefighters.
Douglas Snokhous had a blood alcohol level of .12, while his brother, Robert’s was .158, according to toxicology reports.
Meanwhile, Jerry Chapman had THC in his system, indicating previous use of marijuana.
The impact of those findings is still unknown.
Officials with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation met with members of each family, and guided them through the process of applying for PSOB funds.
Administered by the Department of Justice, the families of public safety workers killed in the line of duty are eligible to receive $328,612.73.
Being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol may prevent the survivors from receiving the federal benefits.
Also, the NFFF will have to make a determination whether to honor the three along with the others at the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service in Emmitsburg.
“All I know right now is what the news is reporting down there. No one has called me,” NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said in a telephone interview Friday morning.
Siarnicki said his organization is in a holding pattern on whether the names of Chapman and the captains will be inscribed on the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
A decision on who will be honored at the 2014 memorial service will be made next spring.
“I’m not jumping to any conclusions,” he said. “There’s plenty of times for reports to be reviewed.”
The Waco Tribune-Herald that obtained the autopsy reports after filing a request, and released graphic details of how the firefighters died has come under fire from both responders and local residents.
On Thursday evening, the following note was posted on Tribune’s website: “…This newspaper does not believe one can sufficiently acknowledge the sacrifices of those lost by glossing over the devastation of what happened that day — specifically, the sheer violence of a chemical explosion ultimately caused by an astounding lack of state and federal regulation."
"Anyone who has read the autopsy reports knows full well our Thursday story about the deaths of the victims, while disturbing, doesn’t begin to recount the horrific detail contained in page after page of the official reports. Yet to simply attribute these deaths to "blunt-force trauma" doesn’t begin to convey the needless horror of this incident."
"Some of the people with whom we’ve spoken in the past day suggest that perhaps such reporting comes too soon, when wounds in West are still fresh. We are deeply sorry this story has proven so upsetting and has aggravated the healing we sincerely wish for the people of West.:
"Our only intent is to report this story responsibly and accurately, with tact and honesty, so that the sacrifices of those killed on April 17 can prevent a similar tragedy somewhere else.”