July 11--Houston fire investigators will examine the protective equipment worn by a firefighter who collapsed and died while battling a blaze in an unoccupied Kingwood home to see if a mechanical failure caused his collapse, fire officials said.
For the second time in a little more than a year, state and federal fire authorities are investigating the death of a Houston Fire Department firefighter who perished in an unoccupied structure. Two separate investigations are under way into the deaths of four firefighters in May 2013 after a roof collapsed at a southwest Houston motel that had been evacuated after a fire broke out.
The death on Wednesday of veteran firefighter Daniel Groover, 46, is being investigated by HFD arson investigators, as well as federal safety inspectors from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and a team from the State Fire Marshal's Office, agency officials confirmed.
Groover collapsed on the second floor of a home in Kingwood, and fellow firefighters found him after he lost radio communication inside the burning structure.
"We want to examine the gear to make sure it wasn't a mechanical failure, or deficient gear," said Capt. Ruy Lozano. "Everything he had on got sealed and sent to the Houston arson bureau."
Lozano said Groover's equipment includes gloves, helmet, face mask, breathing air pack, air regulator, as well as a portable radio and a monitor that automatically sends a signal if a firefighter hasn't moved in 20 seconds. The length of the HFD's investigation will depend on what information is found, and Lozano said no timetable has been set for completion.
Meanwhile, pathologists at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences conducted an autopsy on Goover, said spokeswoman Tricia Bentley. Results can take up to several weeks, depending on the examination performed by the pathologists and if they order specialized testing, Bentley explained.
Groover, a veteran of 21 years with HFD who was assigned to Station 104 in Kingwood, is survived by a wife and three adult sons. His father, Gary Groover, was a captain with HFD who retired after 31 years.
Jerry Hagins, a spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's Office in Austin, confirmed that the agency has already begun a state-mandated investigation of the firefighter's death.
"We have personnel on the scene who will be conducting an investigation, which will include looking at evidence and conducting interviews," Hagins said. "The purpose of these reports is to learn lessons to prevent similar tragedies."
Hagins said the state's investigation of the deadly May 2013 fire is expected to be released by the end of the summer, but has been delayed by the unusually large number of firefighter deaths recorded in Texas. During fiscal year 2013, 20 firefighters were killed in the line of duty, up from four during the previous year, Hagins said, citing agency records.
"Last year was a terrible year for firefighters in Texas, so the folks who do these reports have been busy the whole time and were a little behind schedule," Hagins said.
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