Pa. fire captain recovers after fall from ladder truck

By Tom Murse
The Intelligencer Journal/New Era

LANCASTER, Pa. — Firefighter Ken Barton took his first steps Tuesday since falling 12 feet from a ladder truck during downtown Lancaster's Christmas tree lighting.

"It was a lot of pain, but it actually felt good to get up and go," the Lancaster city firefighter said during an interview from his hospital room.

Doctors at Lancaster General Hospital said the fire captain and 25½-year veteran of the department could be sent home within the next day or two.

"If all goes well, they're hoping to get me out of here Thursday or Friday, if I continue to improve," said Barton, who is 51 and lives in West Lampeter Township.

Barton fell from a new ladder truck during the Friday night arrival of Santa Claus at the Marriott hotel on Penn Square.

He broke eight ribs on the right side of his rib cage, causing his right lung to collapse; cracked three thoracic vertebra; and suffered a bruised kidney and liver. He also sustained minor abrasions and still has blood above his adrenal gland.

Barton was knocked unconscious in the fall and only partially came to at the hospital.

He still does not remember exactly what happened.

"In all honestly, I can't even tell you how," he said. "I know I was walking back from the bucket to the base of the aerial" — the ladder — "ready to step off to go back and down onto the street. From there I have no clue."

Santa Claus had already been delivered to the Marriott and firefighters had bedded the ladder and secured the equipment when Barton fell.

Barton said doctors have not set a timetable for his return to the fire department.

He said he is still in a great deal of pain, which prevents him from sleeping well. And he has to wear a breathing tube because of the collapsed lung.

"When I'm sitting still I'm OK," he said. "When I have to get moving, that's when I start to get into a good bit of pain."

Physical therapists helped him walk the corridors of the hospital for about 30 minutes Tuesday morning.

Barton is one of five captains on the city fire department. He is the second in command of platoon C, which has about 19 members. There are 85 city firefighters, all of them full-time employees.

Gregg said the department is handling Barton's long-term absence on a "day-to-day basis."

"Either somebody will move up into his position as an acting officer, or there's a chance that we could bring in overtime to fill in," Gregg said.

Despite being a firefighter in Lancaster for more than 25 years, Barton said he's never dealt with anything as painful as his injuries from the fall.

"I've had just minor stuff, nowhere near this bad," he said.

Barton is married and has two children, ages 15 and 18.

Copyright 2009 Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.

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