New York Firefighter Lawsuit Charges Locator Alarm’s Failure Caused Injuries

A Central New York firefighter is charging in a lawsuit that a locator alarm on his breathing apparatus failed when he was trapped in a burning building, reports

Without the alarm, firefighters couldn’t find him quickly to rescue him, causing the Oneida firefighter’s serious injuries that lead to him losing an arm and an ear.

The firefighter, Mitchell Dryer, and his wife, Aimee, are suing Scott Technologies in state Supreme Court in Madison County. A jury is expected to hear closing arguments in the lawsuit on Tuesday.

Dryer was injured in an April 2007 fire at the Oneida City Lanes when he was buried in a pile of burning debris.

The lawsuit alleges that his burns weren’t sustained when the ceiling of the bowling alley collapsed, but instead resulted and worsened because he couldn’t be located and pulled from the rubble because his alarm didn’t work.

The case focuses on whether Scott Technologies knew about failures with safety alarms they manufacture that are worn by firefighters, and if they did enough to warn firefighters about the failures.

The lawsuit contends Scott was aware that firefighters have died when the alarms failed. Without an alarm sounding fellow firefighters can have trouble locating a downed firefighter, the lawsuit says.

The Dryers are represented by lawyers from the Syracuse-based Lynn law firm.

Patricia Lynn-Ford declined comment at this time because the court case is currently being argued.

Dryer, who was 34 at the time of the incident, was severely burned, losing his right arm, right ear and suffering extensive damage to his right leg, according to court papers. He was buried for 22 to 26 minutes as other firefighters searched for him, the lawsuit says.

Oneida firefighters, like firefighters across the country, wear self-contained breathing apparatus known to breathe inside a burning building. It includes a Personal Alarm Safety System, or “PASS alarm,” which emits an audible alert and visual signal designed to assist firefighters in locating a firefighter who has become motionless.

Court papers outline the early morning hours of April 22, 2007, when the fire erupted at 3:32 a.m. Dryer and several others responded to the scene. While fighting the fire, the building’s ceiling collapsed on him and another firefighter, separating them.

Dryer’s lieutenant was able to dig himself out, but couldn’t find Dryer in the debris-filled room. It took more than 20 minutes for more than a dozen firefighters to locate Dryer under the rubble, court papers say. The delay resulted in much more severe burns and injuries, according to the lawsuit.

Dryer suffered burns over 20 percent of his body — third-and fourth-degree to his chest and shoulder and first and second degree to his ear and neck. He has had numerous surgeries and has been undergoing rehabilitation, court papers say.

The lawsuit says Dryer, the father of twins born in 2009, has been unable to work since the fire.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Shook, Hardy and Bacon, the law firm is representing Scott Technologies, could not be reached for comment.

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