Family Members Demonstrate Over Firefighter’s Death at New York Academy

Peyton Morse's grandfather and great-uncle are demanding answers about how the firefighter died during a training exercise at the state fire academy.
Relatives of a Watertown firefighter demonstrate over his death during training at the New York State Fire Academy. (WWNY)

Great-uncle, grandfather demand answers in training death

Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.


Mar. 16–WATERTOWN – Peyton Lane S. Morse’s grandfather and great-uncle are demanding answers about how the young city firefighter died during a training exercise at the state fire academy almost two weeks ago.

Ronald Morse, Peyton’s grandfather, and his uncle Stan Morse are so angry about the circumstances regarding how the fire recruit died that they drove to the New York State Academy of Fire Science in Montour Falls, near Watkins Glen, on Tuesday morning and picketed in front of the fire training school.

They carried signs that read the fire academy was “dangerous,” accusing instructors of not responding in a timely manner during the medical emergency in which he was found unresponsive in the March 3 incident.

The great-uncle is calling for all the instructors at the academy to be fired and the facility to be closed. They’re questioning whether the training went too far that day.

“I think all of them should be gone,” he said.

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It’s the first time a family members is speaking publicly about Peyton Morse’s death and what happened at the state academy.

The grandfather drove from his home near Syracuse, while the great-uncle spent the last two days driving up for the funeral from his home in Raleigh, N.C. They left their picket signs behind in front of the state academy, wondering how long they will remain there.

Stan Morse said he was pleased to hear that a Rochester-area state lawmaker was calling for the state attorney general to investigate what happened.

“That’s a great start,” Stan Morse said, stressing he hopes Attorney General Letitia A. James follows through with a thorough investigation. “I guess it’s getting dealt with.”

The state police and the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, or PESH, are already investigating what happened.

The alarms on the air pack that Peyton Morse was wearing went off, but instructors did not respond quickly, forcing his great-grandson to get out of the situation on his own, Stan Morse claims.

They want to know why that happened, he said. Peyton Morse was just starting his career in what he called his dream job.

The great-uncle would like to talk to the instructors who were there that day to find out. They will not give up until they have answers, Stan Morse said.

On March 3, Peyton Morse, the assistant chief of the LaFargeville Fire Department and a volunteer for a Albany area fire department while he attended Siena College, was rushed to a local hospital, stabilized and then airlifted to Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Penn.

Peyton Morse remained at the Sayre hospital, in the intensive care unit, for more than a week and died Friday. His grandfather stayed by his grandson’s hospital bedside with other family members, friends and firefighters. Peyton, 21, was his youngest grandchild.

“It’s been so emotional,” he said.

Led by a motorcade of law enforcement and fire department vehicles, his body returned to the north country Monday. The support of firefighters has helped the family with their grief, Stan Morse said.

“We just want to thank them,” he said.

The fire academy is owned by the state and overseen by the Office of Fire Prevention and Control, which, in turn, is under the auspices of the state Division of Homeland Security. He intends to go to Albany to meet with Francis Nerney Jr., state fire administrator for fire prevention and control, to get an explanation of what happened and what the state plans to do about the situation.

Chet Lasell, assistant director of communications at the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.


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