A downtown collision between two Tulsa fire trucks in late September led to the demotion of two firefighters and the suspension of three others, Tulsa Fire Department documents indicate.
The disciplinary action stems from a Sept. 25 accident at the intersection of East 7th Street and South Elgin Avenue. Both trucks, each carrying four firefighters, were responding to an emergency call in the area when one of the vehicles side-swiped the other.
Documents obtained Wednesday shed more light on what happened that day, including witness and emergency crew testimony that put the blame squarely on the driver of one of the trucks, a Fire Equipment Operator.
That driver “had the red light,” according to one EMSA employee. Another EMSA employee also reported the Fire Equipment Operator ignored his stop light.
Upon investigating the crash, however, TFD officials discovered both trucks had disabled seat belt alarms, allowing crew members to move more freely without being buckled in.
Both alarms had been covered with makeshift disablers, one covered with tape and a “paper towel type product inside the opening of the device” and the other using tape and a foam ear plug for the same effect.
The finding prompted Tulsa Fire Chief Ray Driskell and TFD leadership to inspect every truck that has seat alarms during the next 24 hours. Seventy-five percent of those vehicles did in fact have altered or malfunctioning alarms, according to Driskell.
Following the incident, documents show the Fire Equipment Operator was demoted and required to attend defensive driving class and other courses before retesting for a promotion. A TFD captain was also demoted and forced to complete defensive driving and leadership courses before returning to the field.
Three others were suspended without pay for one 24-hour shift.
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