Apparatus expert examines aerial platform LODDs

By Jamie Thompson
FireRescue1 Editor

LOS ANGELES — An expert who helped lead the report into the deaths of two firefighters who fell from a recently purchased aerial platform has offered further insight into the accident.

Speaking at the IAFF's Redmond Symposium, apparatus investigation consultant Bill Peters spoke in detail on the contributing factors in the LODDs and how NIOSH came to its conclusions.

Photo Justin Baker/News-JournalThe ladder truck is seen parked the night of the accident on Jan. 25.
Photo Justin Baker/News-Journal
The ladder truck is seen parked the night of the accident on Jan. 25.

Kilgore, Texas, firefighters Kyle Perkins and Cory Galloway fatally fell 83 feet after being placed in "a high-risk training situation without adequate familiarization with the new apparatus," according to the report released in July.

During his 25-minute presentation to the symposium, Peters offered his perspective on some of the key factors that led to the deaths, which included:

  • Unfamiliarity with the controls on the newly purchased aerial platform truck
  • Failure to use safety harnesses/belts during training at height
  • The design of the lifting eyes — causing one to snag a parapet wall — and platform doors which sprung outward during the incident

Addressing the lack of safety belts in the incident, Peters told the symposium Thursday that the LODDs highlighted the fact many firefighters are lulled into a "false sense of security" while working on aerial platforms because of the 42-inch-high beam running inside.

"You think nothing can happen, but unfortunately you get a situation like this and it could happen," he said.

"The generic aerial manual discusses safety belts, it said to wear them, but they were not required during the training. It's my opinion that if the belts had been worn, the outcome of this would have been far less serious."

NFPA guidelines, Peters said, state the responsibility of supplying safety belts rests with the department and not the manufacturer.

NFPA 1901 specifically has two references, he said, first that attachment points are required — which the platform had — and second that full ladder belts be available before the apparatus is placed in service.

"It was the responsibility of the fire department to supply these and finally it's the individual responsibility of firefighters to wear these harnesses when they are operating in a platform," Peters said.

"Quite often when I go to factory inspections of new fire apparatus I bring my own belt … and I make sure I belt in. I'm not taking any chances."

Peters was contacted by NIOSH shortly after the incident to help direct its firefighter fatality investigation. The report described how four firefighters were raised to the roof of an eight-story dormitory building at Kilgore College during a training exercise in January to familiarize the department with the new 95-foot mid-mount aerial platform.

The platform became stuck on the concrete parapet at the top of the building. In the attempt to free the snagged platform, the parapet gave way, causing the ladder to spring backwards from the building and whip violently back and forth, ejecting the two firefighters.

Peters said the ongoing, in-service training on the new equipment in the weeks before the accident varied, with some members reporting that they operated it a few times to others saying they practiced quite often.

"When the factory training was complete, a structured program of training should have followed by the fire department to tell the on-duty officers how often and what they should be practicing with," he said.

The symposium in Los Angeles was told how open and forthcoming the department was in assisting NIOSH with the investigation and how it has since put better procedures in place.

Peters said, "When the NIOSH report came out, the public safety director Ronnie Moore had this to say in the Tyler Morning Telegraph: 'It's our hope that out of this tragic accident we can make a positive — in other words, prevent this from happening to any other department across the United States.'

"Any fire department operating an aerial device should heed this important safety precaution and learn from this tragic accident." 

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