Slick roads, lack of seat belts, training led to Calif. firefighter death

BEAUMONT, Calif. — A NIOSH report suggests that the death of a Riverside County, Calif., Fire Department firefighter in August 2005 could have been prevented if the department had some standard vehicle safety requirements in place.

While responding to a report of a flooding house, the engine carrying firefighter Chris Kanton and other members of his crew hydroplaned off the rain-soaked black top, while merging into a four-lane highway. While the engine spun on the slick surface, Kanton was ejected from the rear seat and was struck by the engine as it continued on its path. The engine's driver was also ejected through the front windshield and suffered several head wounds. The third crew member was uninjured.

Among its recommendations, the NIOSH report states that before drivers operate a vehicle they should be properly trained. In the case of this incident, the crew had put the engine they normally used out of commission due to a brake malfunction. The investigation also found that the driver had never operated the replacement engine prior to the day of the incident. According to the report, the driver was cited by Highway Patrol for operating the engine at speeds unsafe in light of the dangerous driving conditions.

The NIOSH report recommends that all departments create Standard Operating Procedures for the use of seat belts while engines are in operation. Neither Kanton nor the engine's driver were wearing seat belts and both were ejected from the apparatus. The crew member seated on the passenger side was wearing a seat belt and suffered no injuries.

Related Report:
Official NIOSH Report: Chris Kanton

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