Federal authorities say Massachusetts should enact laws that require firefighters to wear seat belts and be tested on air brakes before they are allowed to drive fire trucks, according to a recently released investigation report on a fatal fire truck crash in Boston last year.
Lt. Kevin M. Kelley (Boston Fire Department)
The investigation conducted by the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concludes that a fire lieutenant who was killed and two firefighters riding in a ladder truck when it lost brake pressure and crashed into an apartment building on Jan. 9, 2009, were not wearing their selt belts. The driver also was not adequately trained on how air brakes work, the report says.
Boston Fire Department regulations did not require firefighters to wear selt belts at the time of the crash, and Massachusetts law exempts "operators and passengers of fire vehicles from having to wear a seat belt."
"Due to the severity of the fatal incident, a seat belt may not have saved the victim, but is recommended as a good safety practice," the report says.
Current law requires drivers of commercial trucks to pass extensive testing to obtain commerical driver licenses, but firefighters are exempt because firetrucks are not considered commercial vehicles. NIOSH investigators recommend that drivers of fire apparatus be required to be certified on "knowledge and skill of air brake systems, thus making the fire apparatus driver better capable of operating the fire apparatus."
The NIOSH probe cited four key factors that led to the crash in Boston and ultimately led to the fatality: brake failure, poor maintenance, inadequate training, and failure to wear seat belts.
Lieutenant Kevin M. Kelley was killed instantly when Ladder 26 crashed into an apartment building in Mission Hill, while three other firefighters riding in the truck were injured.
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