Firefighters not using seat belts in Ind. pumper crash

By Scott Smith
The Kokomo Tribune

KOKOMO, Ind. — Kokomo Fire Chief Pat O'Neill said Monday he was awaiting additional information before commenting on the Saturday accident that injured four and heavily damaged a city fire truck.

But a Kokomo police accident report issued Monday exonerated the three firefighters involved in the crash.

One of those three men, James Newburn, 55, Kokomo, was in stable condition at Howard Regional Health System Monday.

Lisa C. Kessinger, 40, Kokomo, was listed as the driver of a 2008 Chrysler minivan in the KPD report.

According to the report, Kessinger ran a red light before plowing into the left rear axle of the pumper engine. Monday, Kessinger was listed in fair condition at Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis.

Troy Pearson, a witness to the accident, agreed Kessinger ran the light. Person said she didn't appear to even slow before hitting the engine.

The pumper was westbound on Rainbow Drive when it entered the intersection; Pearson said it appeared to be turning north on LaFountain Street when he caught the minivan approaching from the corner of his eye.

None of the three firefighters were wearing seat belts, according to the KPD report. Pearson said the impact was so violent it raised the fire truck more than a foot in the air, and caused the cowling over the engine and the driver's cab to come off its moorings.

The cab/engine covering bounced off the driver/passenger compartment before violently snapping back into place. The fire truck was also spun about 180 degrees by the impact.

O'Neill said he suspects the pumper, a 1986 Ford, will be a total loss. The pumper is normally used as a reserve engine whenever a newer engine is at the garage for maintenance, he said.

The crew of the truck is assigned to Station 4, at Lincoln Road and Webster Street. O'Neill said the truck was coming back from a run when the crash occurred.

All three firefighters complained of pain at the scene, but initially, their injuries were thought to be non-incapacitating. Two of the firefighters, Laronda C. Kirby, 41, and Robert P. Eldridge, 43, were treated and released at a local hospital. Newburn has been hospitalized ever since the crash, with non-life threatening injuries.

Copyright 2009 Kokomo Tribune

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