NY report: Accountability confusion surrounded Buffalo LODDs

Crews struggled to locate Lt. "Chip" McCarthy; more than an hour and a half passed before they radioed Firefighter Jonathan Croom was also missing

By Ken Robinson
FireRescue1 associate editor

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Confusion on the fireground muddled efforts to rescue two New York firefighters responding to a fire at a local deli, according to a fire department report.

Fire Lieutenant Charles "Chip" McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom were killed on August 24 last year as they were responding to what were eventually determined to be false reports of people trapped inside the burning building.

Lt. McCarthy was part of a rescue team that had entered the first floor of the deli in Buffalo to verify all firefighters were evacuated when the floor around him collapsed, according to the report.

Other members of the rescue team were unaware of the collapse and only reported hearing a loud noise.

After falling, Lt. McCarthy immediately began issuing mayday calls over the radio and to those in his proximity, but the remaining members of his rescue team could not locate where the calls for help were coming from as he was below them.

Command sent a team of firefighters to the opposite side of the building, where they believed the calls were originating from.

At the same time, Firefighter Croom was stationed in front of the building when he realized where Lt. McCarthy had fallen and entered the building to attempt to rescue the trapped firefighter, only to become trapped himself.

A headcount revealed that Lt. McCarthy was missing, but Firefighter Croom was mistakenly accounted for in subsequent headcounts.

"Another firefighter on scene working on another crew was thought to be the member sought due to a close similarity in last names," the report said.

Firefighters at the front of the store reported hearing a PASS device, but extreme fire conditions, weakened flooring and continuing collapse thwarted rescue attempts.

About an hour and a half after Firefighter Croom entered the deli, another headcount revealed he was missing.

After three hours of extensive rescue efforts including breaching a wall, firefighters located the two missing members under debris and moved the bodies, draped in American flags, into ambulances.

Six months after the incident, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

More than 5,000 firefighters attended the funeral for their fallen colleagues four days later.

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