Van struck San Antonio firefighter retrieving a thermal imaging camera
NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
On October 15, 2019, at approximately 0711 hours, a 49-year-old career male firefighter-paramedic was struck and killed by a delivery van.
The firefighter’s company, Aerial Platform 1, was dispatched at 0704 hours to assist Engine 1 with ventilation for light grey smoke and a burnt plastic odor in a hotel lobby. Aerial Platform 1 arrived on scene and parked in the southbound lane of a two-lane commercial street.
All four crew members of Aerial Platform 1 gathered at the rear of the truck to unpack the electrical ventilation fans. None of them were wearing reflective vests over their station uniforms.
As the crew of Aerial Platform 1 began to make their way toward the hotel, the captain asked the firefighter-paramedic to retrieve the thermal imaging camera (TIC) from the apparatus.
At approximately 0711 hours, the firefighter-paramedic was near the engineer’s door of Aerial Platform 1, presumably to retrieve the TIC from its usual charging location on the console behind the engineer’s seat. The delivery van was traveling northbound about 30 miles per hour (mph), the unposted speed limit. Visibility was poor due to the time of day (12 minutes before sunrise), dim and widely spaced streetlights, and Aerial Platform 1’s emergency lights.
As the van reached the front end of Aerial Platform 1, the firefighter-paramedic fell backwards into the northbound lane perpendicular to the engineer’s door.
It is unclear if he was about to enter the cab or had just exited the cab.
The delivery van ran over the firefighter-paramedic, dragging him 26.5 feet before his body was released from the underside of the van. After slamming on the brakes and exiting the vehicle, the driver began screaming for help.
Medics and firefighters from Engine 1 and Aerial Platform 1 found the firefighter-paramedic unconscious with severe trauma and began emergency medical care. Despite immediate advanced life support administered on-scene, during transport, and in the local trauma center, the firefighter-paramedic succumbed to his injuries.
The autopsy completed by the County Medical Examiner’s office concluded the firefighter-paramedic “died as a result of blunt force injuries reportedly sustained as a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle.”
- Lack of traffic incident management
- Lack of a reflective vest worn by firefighters over their station uniforms
- Lack of a temporary traffic control (TTC) plan
- Poor visibility
- The firefighter-paramedic’s station boots may have been unzipped, presenting a slip/trip hazard
- The firefighter-paramedic may not have used three points of contact for access to/egress from the apparatus
- Use of a replacement apparatus, resulting in the firefighter-paramedic not being familiar with the TIC charging/storage location.
- Fire departments should train firefighters, especially firefighters in the jump seats, to exit and enter the apparatus from the side not facing oncoming or approaching traffic
- When not wearing turnout gear, fire departments should ensure firefighters wear reflective traffic safety vests whenever parking, working on, or crossing a roadway
- Fire departments should establish a TTC zone when apparatuses are parked or staged on two-lane commercial or residential streets
- Once TTC measures are in place, fire departments should consider implementing procedures to turn off the apparatus headlights and reduce the flashing frequency of the emergency lights, particularly during the dark hours (dusk, night, dawn)
- Fire departments, along with their state and local partners, should consider a public education campaign on the state laws regarding speed limits around emergency operations, and the enforcement of those laws.