Aerial Ladder Destroyed In Freak Accident
An aerial ladder of the Rockledge, Pa., Fire Department en route to a Fourth of July parade in Huntington Valley overturned when the bed ladder suddenly began to rise as the apparatus was proceeding along the highway. The driver of the vehicle, Lieutenant James Kiel, reported that while he was moving along Huntington Pike in Lower Moreland Township at a speed of 20 mph the front wheels suddenly rose off the ground. He jumped before the apparatus overturned on its side and was not injured. Fireman Joseph Masaino, on the front seat with Kiel, was thrown off and received bruises and a sprained knee. Tillerman Robert E. Konzelman also leaped from his seat and suffered a fractured elbow.
Fire Chief Albert J. Longstreth told FIRE ENGINEERING that prior to leaving for the Huntington Valley parade the apparatus had been parked in front of the Rockledge fire station. It is possible that children playing in the neighborhood may have moved the lever controlling the raising mechanism to the operating position and that vibration while proceeding along the highway accidentally activated the ladder. He said the tip of the bed ladder and the nested fly sections jammed under the tiller seat as the center of the ladder raised up and buckled from the resulting strain.
Chief Longstreth reported that it was necessary for the Willow Grove, Pa., Fire Company Rescue Squad to use acetylene torches to cut the vehicle into three sections in order to remove it from the highway. Traffic was blocked for nearly four hours. The remains of the apparatus will be junked but the raising mechanism will be carefully examined to determine if there was a mechanical failure. Preliminary investigation has indicated the existence of some worn parts with consequent possibility of malfunction.
The apparatus was built in 1932 and was equipped with a modern metal ladder several years ago. It had been purchased second hand by Rockledge from the Marion of Ardmore Department in 1953.
One factor in the freak accident was a $100 deductible insurance coverage on the apparatus. Sometime ago the board of directors of the fire department removed all insurance coverage on Rockledge equipment with the exception of a new pumper. At the insistence of Chief Longstreth the insurance was replaced on all apparatus shortly thereafter.
—Breeze Newspaper Photo