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Firefighters fell more than 40 feet when bucket dropped

Investigation continues on malfunctioning fire truck ladder

POSTED: July 24, 2014 5:53 p.m.
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Stephen Jackson

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A dozen or more investigators continued Thursday combing through the malfunctioning Hall County fire truck that put three firefighters in intensive care units.

The county has retained an independent forensic engineer to assist county investigators, in addition to representatives from the cable manufacturer and fire truck manufacturer Sutphen Corp.

Engineers examined the scene Thursday afternoon, looking at the pulleys and cables on the truck. A cable on the ground near the vehicle looked as if it were frayed.

During a training exercise Tuesday, firefighters TJ Elliott, Stephen Jackson and Will Griffin were injured when the bucket atop the ladder fell 44 feet. One firefighter is now recovering from back surgery, while the other two are expected to have surgeries in the next 48 hours, said Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle.

After a visual inspection of the truck Wednesday evening, Cagle said the height of the drop appeared to be more than the previously reported 20 feet. The new number comes from measuring the pistons in the hydraulic system to see how far the firefighters dropped in the bucket.

The training exercise involved maneuvering the ladder truck that was acquired in April for the new Fire Station No. 16.

“It had gotten to almost a stopping motion when they heard a noise, and then the fall happened,” Cagle said.

The department posted a message from Chief David Kimbrell on its Facebook page Wednesday night saying one firefighter in the fall had a large hematoma on his back and two broken vertebrae. Doctors put in two rods to stabilize the vertebrae, which will put the firefighter in a back brace for several weeks, according to the message. The recovery is estimated to take 12 weeks.

Katie Crumley, public information officer for Hall County government, said the firefighter will be supported financially through workers’ compensation.

“Workman’s comp will cover all medical expenses,” she said. “It will cover any lost wages and partial disability.”

Donations also can be made for other expenses to the Hall County Injured Firefighters Fund set up at Hall County Credit Union, 2601 Limestone Parkway, Gainesville. Cagle said the firefighter fund had reached $2,400 as of noon Thursday.

Cards can be sent to Hall County Fire Services, P.O. Box 907730, Gainesville, GA 30501.

Cagle said the families affected by the incident have been amazed by the response by other Georgia firefighters.

“One said they had always heard of the brotherhood, but never experienced it,” he said.

Firefighters are working on a game plan, Cagle said, to help the families as their brethren recuperate from surgery, including mowing the grass and helping around the house.

Griffin was taken by ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center on Tuesday, where hospital officials said Thursday he was listed in “fair” condition in the ICU. Elliott and Jackson were both airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Jackson was listed as “stable” in the ICU on Thursday morning, according to Grady hospital officials. No further information was available for Elliott.

Following the incident, Sutphen Corp. issued a voluntary statement to remove aerial devices SPH 100, SP 110, SPI 112 AND SAI 110 from service. The only Hall County truck affected is the one in the Tuesday incident.



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