Thursday, 4:30 PM
Sources: autopsies found alcohol, cocaine in fallen firefighters' systems
By Jonathan Saltzman and Frank Phillips, Globe Staff
One of two Boston firefighters who died fighting a fire in a Chinese restaurant in August was legally intoxicated at the time, and the other had cocaine in his system, according to two officials who were briefed today on the autopsy results.
A source who was briefed by someone with knowledge of the autopsy reports of Paul J. Cahill and Warren J. Payne told the Globe that one firefighter had a blood-alcohol level higher than .08, the level when someone is too drunk to drive legally in Massachusetts. The other firefighter had traces of cocaine in his system, according to the source.
A second source who was briefed on the findings of the state medical examiner's office said Cahill registered a blood-alcohol level of .27 in the autopsy, which would have placed him at more than three times the legal limit, while Payne had cocaine in his system.
Neither source was specific about the amount of cocaine found.
The two officials were briefed separately. They spoke separately to the Globe on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
The autopsy results marked a stunning development in the saga of the two veteran firefighters, the first members of the department to die in the line of duty since 1994.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino tonight declined to comment on the allegations through a spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, because the Suffolk district attorney's office is still investigating the firefighters' deaths.
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones," Joyce said. "The mayor will not comment any further on the DA's investigation until it's complete."
Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, said the department had gotten no reports on the district attorney's investigation.
"Right now, just because of the actions today, we just really want to really reach out to the two families of the two firefighters and let them know that we're still thinking of them and we're here for them," he said.
Cahill, 55, of Scituate and Payne, 53, of Newton were killed Aug. 29 in West Roxbury in what appeared at first to be a simple grease fire in the Tai Ho Mandarin and Cantonese Restaurant, about a half-mile from their Centre Street firehouse. Firefighters did not know that flames had been smoldering for an hour above a drop ceiling, which exploded in a ball of fire.
The Globe reported after the fire that the restaurant had a history of code violations for greasy equipment and vents and was eight months overdue for a health inspection. The blaze prompted the city to consider legislation that would establish training and certification requirements for cleaning contractors hired by restaurants to remove excess grease from kitchen vents.