Issues Raised by Firefighter's Fall From Truck

NY Times - December 04, 2005

A firefighter whose skull was fractured after he was thrown from a fire truck on Friday night remained in critical but stable condition last night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital, his condition improving slightly, fire officials said.

The firefighter, Joseph Moore, 26, was alert and breathing on his own, officials said. An inquiry was under way into what caused his fall from the truck, an aging replacement vehicle that was standing in for a newer truck, which was undergoing maintenance

As that investigation continued, fire and union officials began trading accusations yesterday over the cause of the accident.

Firefighter Moore, of Ladder 13 at 159 East 85th Street, fell at Lexington Avenue and East 85th Street about 8:30 p.m., when his truck turned a corner as it was going to a fire on York Avenue. He had been sitting on the "back step," one of four seats in the rear cab of the ladder truck, a fire official said.

The cab had no roof and a half door, the official said.

A preliminary investigation by safety inspectors suggested that the latch on Firefighter Moore's door had not been faulty, the official said.

It was not clear yesterday whether Firefighter Moore, who has been with the department for three years, had been wearing his seatbelt - as required under department regulations - or whether the open cab had made it easier for him to fall out.

Still, the need to use an older replacement vehicle focused attention on Seagrave Fire Apparatus, the company that now manufactures the department's trucks. Fire officials have acknowledged the company's difficulties supplying new vehicles as well as making repairs to the existing truck fleet.

In a statement, Stephen J. Cassidy, the president of the firefighters' union, said those problems were partly responsible for the accident, adding, "Putting old and unsafe rigs and safety equipment on the streets endangers the lives of firefighters and civilians alike."

In a response, the Fire Department acknowledged the problems with the manufacturer, but said the unions had been involved with the effort to improve Seagrave's performance.