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Ohio chief suspects alcohol involved in firefighter’s inability to respond to EMS call

The Waterville firefighter resigned after being put on leave, citing personal reasons


By Leila Merrill

WATERVILLE, Ohio — Some Waterville firefighters suspect that alcohol was involved in an incident in which a firefighter did not wake up in response to an emergency call in August, WTVG reported Thursday. He resigned the following month.

Nearly every member of the crew responded, but Firefighter Zachary Bernhard did not. He was later sent for blood alcohol content and drug tests.

Firefighters Greg Robertson and Zach Welling both wrote statements saying they were in a car around 2:30 a.m. and en route to the fire station. Welling said Bernhard was dropped off because he had to be on shift at 7 a.m.

Welling stated, “I did not know when he had one or what time he last had said drink.”

Three firefighters caused what was described as a noise disturbance to wake sleeping firefighters.

Documents obtained by the news outlet showed that one firefighter tried several times to wake Bernhard ahead of the 7 a.m. shift, but he only opened one eye while someone was speaking to him.

When an EMS call came in at 7:51 a.m., Bernhard was in bed. Other firefighters responded.

Bernhard was sent to the deputy chief’s office.

Chief Douglas Meyer wrote in a report that the deputy chief “smelled alcohol on Mr. Bernhard.”

The city put Bernhard on administrative leave, and he resigned on Sept. 9, citing personal reasons.

City Administrator Jon Gochenour said in a statement that “at no point was a member of the public or city staff put in any danger due to this incident.”