Jury: Fire dept, apparatus mfg. equally faulted in 2 firefighter deaths
Jury deliberated for 4 hours before awarding $800,000 in damages for 2009 incident that killed 2 firefighters
KILGORE, Texas — A fire apparatus manufacturer and a Texas fire department are equally at fault for two 2009 firefighter deaths, a jury said Monday.
Kilgore firefighters Kyle Perkins and Cory Galloway burst through the inward-only aerial platform doors of an E-One ladder truck and fell eight stories during a January 2009 training exercise, during which a new firefighter was operating the controls and the victims were not wearing safety harnesses, according to News-Journal.com.
Both the Kilgore Fire Department and E-One were to blame, the jury decided, and owe the family of Firefighter Perkins more than $800,000 in damages.
"We wish they didn’t find liability (on E-One's part),” E-One attorney Randy Aiken said. "But this keeps the damages way down, so we're satisfied with that."
During the training exercise, the aerial platform became stuck on the parapet roof. The firefighters fell from the platform when it was dislodged. Jurors heard opinions on the sufficiency of latches on the aerial platform doors and the lack of safety belts being worn or encouraged by E-One sales representatives.
"Why are the E-One personnel allowed to disregard their own policy, disregard their own instructions?" Firefighter Perkins' attorney Jack Walker asked.
Defense attorney Keith Slade called attention to the department's role in the deaths, the article said.
Slade said the department was "aware and cognizant" they needed to get safety belts.
Walker, however, placed guilt squarely on E-One's shoulders, the News-Journal reported.
"The city of Kilgore drew the black bean in this instance," he said. "If the doors stay closed, (Perkins) lives. They had one job to do, and they failed miserably. But, what we know will not do it is 8 inches of aluminum and a slap-latch. And that's all they gave these firefighters."
E-One will return to court in June for a similar suit brought by Firefighter Galloway’s survivors.