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Firefighters recovering in ICU after truck ladder dropped

Fund set up to help firefighters; one has back surgery

POSTED: July 23, 2014 11:05 a.m.

This ladder fell about 20 feet, injuring three firefighters who were in the bucket at the time.

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In an outpouring of support, Georgia firefighters have come to the aid of three Hall County families affected by Tuesday’s firefighter training accident.  

Three Hall County firefighters are still in intensive care, according to an email from Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle, but doing well after they were injured when a fire truck ladder fell about 20 feet during a training session.

Injuries range from bumps and bruises to broken bones, Cagle said.

One of the firefighters had surgery on his back Tuesday, Fire Chief David Kimbrell said Tuesday night in a post on the fire department’s Facebook page.

“The doctor was pleased with the surgery,” Kimbrell’s post said. “The back injury was very significant. (The firefighter) had a large hematoma on his back and had two vertebra that were broken. They put in two rods and screwed the rods into the vertebra in the injured area to stabilize it.”

Kimbrell said the firefighter would be in a back brace for several weeks and would “probably go home if all goes well” in about seven days. The doctor estimated recovery at a minimum of 12 weeks, Kimbrell said.

Following extrication from the bucket atop the ladder, William Griffin was taken by ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, according to hospital officials, where he was in “fair” condition Wednesday afternoon. TJ Elliott and Stephen Jackson were airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where further information about their condition was unavailable.

Atlanta-area firefighters waited for the families at Grady Memorial Hospital, ready at a moment’s notice to help them.

“The brotherhood has been strong, and it’s been great to see it,” Cagle said.

Hall Co. Injured Firefighters Fund has been set up at Hall County Credit Union to help the affected families. After the fund began Wednesday morning, Cagle said donations had reached $400 by Wednesday evening.

The firefighters were training at the county’s facility on Allen Creek Road when the bucket dropped.
All three were from the new Fire Station No. 16 on Shirley Road, each possessing between four and seven years of experience.

Engineers today hoped to begin investigating the ladder truck, a 2006 Sutphen from Fire Station No. 16. No testing was done Wednesday, as one engineer is traveling from Colorado.

Hall County has owned the truck since April, when Sutphen’s record was a cut above the rest, Cagle said.

“At the time that we bought it, Sutphen was one of the only manufacturers without any ladder failure,” he said.

When buying the truck, Cagle said Sutphen touched up the 8-year-old vehicle with fresh paint, as well as refurbishing the interior and recertifying the vehicle’s safety.

“It was like getting a new truck for us,” he said.

Sutphen Corp. issued a news release Tuesday instructing customers to remove all SPH 100, SP 110, SPI 112 and SAI 110 Aerial devices from service effective immediately.

“At this time, our priority is the safety of our firefighters,” said Drew Sutphen, president of the company, in the news release. “In light of the recent incidents, we recognize there is an immediate need to take precautionary action. I would rather take every precaution necessary than to put firefighters at risk.”

The truck involved in the incident is the only Hall County vehicle affected.

Cagle said these types of units have been used for several years without incident, and the company is family owned and “our support for them and their equipment are unwavering.”

Drew Sutphen has been in touch with Fire Chief David Kimbrell, and Sutphen’s “first concern is for the Hall County firefighters and their well-being,” Cagle said.   

The company planned to contact customers to “inform them of the events that have occurred and the steps that are being taken to get the units back into service in a timely manner,” according to the company’s news release.

“After all the documentation is done, (the truck) will be taken back to the plant in Ohio,” Cagle said.

Multiple attempts were made to contact Ken Creese, director of marketing and sales at Sutphen


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