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2 Injured Hall firefighters disappointed, saddened by countys decision to end their employment
3 men injured in 2014 training accident no longer with department
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Two of the three Hall County firefighters injured in a July 2014 training incident called their separation from the county disappointing, one saying he was “saddened by the county’s decision.”

TJ Elliott, Will Griffin and Stephen Jackson all spent their last day in the county’s employment Sunday. The three suffered severe injuries in a July 22, 2014, training incident when the bucket on a ladder truck fell 44 feet.

““He’s very, very disappointed. Like those other guys, firefighting to them was a career, not just a job. And it was a way of life for them,” Elliott’s attorney, Shane Lazenby, said Friday. “They were exceedingly committed, very honored to be members of the firefighting family and wanted to remain associated with them as long as possible.”

“In that TJ did not resign, I would assume you could safely say he was terminated,” Lazenby said.

Jackson provided the following statement through his attorney, Allan Myers:

“I was very saddened by the county’s decision to fire TJ, Will and myself. Working as a fireman was a lifelong dream and an honor. Each of us has worked hard to recover from the injuries which have prevented our return to full active duty.

“While I had hopes of returning to the department, unfortunately, my doctors have not yet cleared me to do so. My wife and I, however, shall move forward from the county’s decision by relying on our faith and with the knowledge that we have the support of friends and family. Misty and I would like to again express our appreciation to my fellow firefighters and the community for the support shown us during these trying times.”

Attempts to reach Griffin’s attorney, Dennis Cathey, for comment was unsuccessful.

Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said Thursday the three have received full benefits and workers’ compensation since the incident. The firefighters were also “encouraged to review a list of available job openings within Hall County government” and had a meeting to discuss employment options, Crumley said.

Lazenby said Elliott asked around about opportunities around the county he might be eligible to take.

“What he did do is express an interest in a multitude of open positions to everybody who would listen, essentially, specifically positions in the fire marshal’s office,” Lazenby said. “Ultimately, he was advised that because he was still receiving care under the worker’s compensation benefits from his injuries, he would not be eligible because he’s still a worker’s compensation patient.”

When reached Friday evening, Crumley said county officials would need more time to respond and she forwarded a request for their comments.

Lazenby said Elliott looked at jobs after letters were sent from Fire Chief Jeff Hood about seeking other options around the county, but physical limitations kept him from being eligible. The three options included in the Jan. 11 letter from Hood were: seek other jobs in the county; retire; or leave through resignation or termination.

“Unfortunately, there is a lack of light duty work currently available within Hall County Fire Services and a dire need remains to fill active duty positions to improve departmental staffing levels,” Hood wrote in a Jan. 11 letter.

The separation, as noted by Hood in his letters, would not affect workers’ compensation.

Jackson was advised that he “did not qualify for any type of retirement benefits due to his lack of service time, nor did he qualify for any type of injury-related early retirement,” Myers said.

“We found this information to be particularly curious considering the reference to retirement benefits contained within the (Jan. 11) letter,” Myers wrote in an email.

The retirement option carried the caveat that it is available “if you meet the plan’s eligibility requirements.”

Both Jackson and Elliott began with Hall County in October 2006. Griffin began with the department in January 2011.

Lazenby said his client would have been eligible to retire in October.