Saturday, 2:15 PM
Fire truck crash kills firefighter, injures 6
(George Rizer/Globe Staff)
By Donovan Slack, Maria Cramer, and Milton Valencia, Globe Staff
One firefighter was killed and another was seriously injured when a Boston Fire Department ladder truck hurtled down a hill and crashed into a building Friday on Huntington Avenue in the city's Mission Hill neighborhood, city and fire officials said. Three children were taken to the hospital with minor injuries when the truck hit the room where they were participating in an after-school program.
Fire Lieutenant Kevin M. Kelley, 52, of Quincy, a 30-year veteran of the force, was killed in the crash, said Steve MacDonald, a fire department spokesman.
The truck was carrying Kelley and three other firefighters back from a routine medical call when it went down Parker Hill Road, rumbled through the intersection with Huntington Avenue, smashed into two parked cars, and struck the building, said MacDonald. Kelley was riding in the front passenger seat when the truck rammed the building at 835 Huntington Ave. at around 2:32 p.m.
One seriously injured firefighter was taken to Brigham and Women's Hospital, said Jennifer Mehigan, a spokeswoman for Boston EMS. Two other firefighters who were riding in the truck were treated for minor injuries and were in good condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman Jaime Lyons. Five other people who witnessed the crash were taken to the hospital with emotional distress, said Mehigan.
Kelley, who had three adult daughters, was given a citation in 1997 for his work in an Oct. 26, 1996 fire in Roxbury, MacDonald said. Edward A. Kelly, president of Local 718 of the International Association of Firefighters, said Kelley was "a true veteran who served the city with distinction."
"Many questions remain as to why this horrific accident happened," he said. "Tonight we ask the people of Boston to stand with us as you always have. Pray for the Kelley family. Pray for three firefighters who are in the hospital right now, for the other people who were hurt today."
Officials refused to speculate on the cause of the accident. "We won't be commenting on the accident or vehicle. ... The cause of the accident will be investigated by the Boston Police Department," MacDonald said.
The 120-unit building the truck smashed into was being evacuated this evening because the electricity, heat, and water are off, said Boston EMS Chief Richard Serino. Serino said it wasn't clear how long the residents would have to vacate their homes.
When the truck struck the building, it crashed into a computer lab where seven children, ages 7 to 12, were working on an after-school project, according to resident David Ramos, 46.
Ramos said he left his family’s ninth-floor apartment when he felt what he described as a tremor, like an earthquake, and heard the alarms. By the time he reached the first floor, he ran into the after-school coordinator who he knew only by her first name, Millie.
“She was all shook up, crying and everything,” he said.
The truck had struck a wall near the computer lab.
"Some of the kids were full of glass," said Ramos. "They were sitting next to the window where the impact was."
Ramos grabbed paper towels and helped clean up some of the children, who were bleeding with cuts from the flying debris.
“It was chaotic for these kids. They were nervous, crying, screaming,” he said.
Three children were taken to Children's Hospital with minor injuries and were expected to be released, according to Andrea Duggan, a hospital spokeswoman.
The truck, Ladder 26, could be seen after the accident resting halfway out of the building at the Mission Park complex. Ladder 26 operates with Engine 37 out of a firehouse nearby at 560 Huntington Ave.
Residents were alarmed by a sudden crashing noise. “All we heard is ‘Bam! Bam!’ and that was it -- it wasn’t even that loud, it was so quick,” said Donna, a certified nursing assistant who cares for an elderly resident in a nearby building and declined to give her last name. “It was terrible because the truck went through the wall and I think it hit the building.”
Karolyn Damian, 11, had just gotten off the bus and was headed to the building when she saw the truck race past her.
“I saw the firetruck just going down the hill going too fast, and it flew into the computer center,” she said. “It was just a loud boom.”
Just before 4:30 p.m., firefighters lined up with their helmets over their hearts to pay honor to a fallen comrade as Kelley's body was removed from the wreckage of the crash and placed in an ambulance.
Ladder 26 was manufactured by a company called E-One. The model year is 1995 and it's a 110-foot truck with a four-door cab. The truck, which was bought new, passed its last annual safety inspection in March 2008 and a ladder inspection in September 2008, city officials said.
The truck was involved in another accident only a month ago, when it rear-ended a car in the same area on Huntington Avenue on Dec. 10, the city official said. An investigation determined the driver of the car was at fault because the car had cut off the truck, the official said. There were no problems with the truck's brakes at the time, the official said.
The truck is one of 23 ladder trucks in the city's fleet and one of eight that are at least 13 years old. A spokeswoman for Florida-based E-One, Amanda Davis, declined to comment on the crash but said, "Our thoughts are with the department and the families."
The Mission Park complex includes three mid-rise buildings and one high-rise apartment tower as well as 147 town houses along a system of interior streets.
Engine 37 and Ladder 26 were featured on episodes of Discovery Channel's Firehouse USA.
The last fatal crash involving a Massachusetts firefighter occurred in 1988 in Barnstable, according to Rita Fahy, a database manager at the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy. The firefighter killed in that crash was responding to a call for emergency medical services in a personal vehicle, Fahy said.
Between 1993 and 2007, there have been just three fatal crashes involving ladder trucks nationwide.
Andrew Ward, a Northeastern senior, said he lives across the street from the building and heard an “incredible noise.” When he looked out the building, he told the Globe, he saw a “chaotic scene.”
From her apartment on the 13th floor, Julia Gorin, 69, said she heard a noise "like a blast" and felt the entire high-rise vibrate.
In the building next door on Huntington Avenue, Sophia Nikolayerskaya thought it was "an explosion."
"Terrible," Nikolayerskaya said, shaking her head.
Eric Moskowitz, Andrew Ryan, Megan Woolhouse, and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff, along with Globe correspondent Stewart Bishop, contributed to this report.