Accident Investigation Involving Firefighter Found Positive for Cocaine Nears Conclusion


 
 

Chuck Williams | | Friday, March 7, 2008


COLUMBUS, Ga. -- The nearly three-month investigation into a wreck by an on-duty Columbus, Ga., firefighter and the son of a city councilor is nearing a conclusion, though no date for its completion has been set.

Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington, who called for the investigation into the wreck by Zachary Allen and any potential cover-up within the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said this week he expects the probe to be completed soon. He did not give a time when the Columbus Police Department's Office of Professional Standards will wrap up the investigation, which started Dec. 11.

As part of the investigation, Wetherington was interviewed last week.

"I was the last person to give a statement," the mayor said. "That's what Internal Affairs told me. They have 26 tapes to get typed up, then they have to summarize the investigation. The interviews have concluded. Now, it's a matter of putting the report together."

Police Chief Ricky Boren has referred all questions about the investigation to Wetherington's office.

Allen, the son of four-term Columbus Councilor Gary Allen, hit two cars at the intersection of Interstate 185 and Macon Road en route to a call at Pratt & Whitney on Nov. 28, 2006. LaLinriafaye Wilson of Columbus was injured in the wreck. The firefighter, who had been with the department a year, tested positive for cocaine in a post-accident drug test. Facing termination, Allen resigned the day after the accident.

During the Ledger-Enquirer's investigation, it was discovered that Allen's personnel file with the Human Resources Department listed him as eligible for rehire by the city. City officials have since said that was a mistake.

Three months after his wreck and positive drug test, Allen applied for a firefighter's job in LaGrange. In that application package was a letter of recommendation apparently from Deputy Chief David Starling, who knew of Allen's positive drug test and suspension the night it happened. Starling has denied writing that letter.

The Columbus Police Department, Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the city's Risk Management Department all investigated the wreck.

News of Allen's positive drug test came out in a Ledger-Enquirer investigation published Dec. 9. LaLinriafaye Wilson's attorney, Ben Philips, has threatened a $2 million lawsuit against the city and had been in settlement talks. Philips did not know of the positive drug test until he was shown a copy of the results by a reporter prior to publication of the story.

At the time the investigation began, Boren said nothing would be off limits to the investigation team, led by Maj. Lem Miller.

"The investigation will center around the entire incident," he said. "It will go from prior to the time of the wreck to date. We will look at all policies governing alcohol and drug policies within public safety, as well as all the practices that were followed."

Though nobody will say how many people have been interviewed, it is believed to be extensive, possibly more than 50. Wetherington called it a thorough investigation.

"I don't know how many people they have talked to, but I know when it's over I will get a complete report," Wetherington said.

Gary Allen cooperated with investigators, attorney Richard Hagler said. Others who were interviewed include former Mayor Bob Poydasheff, who was in office at the time of Zachary Allen's wreck, and a number of members of the Fire and EMS command staff, including Chief Jeff Meyer.

Wetherington said that any disciplinary action taken as a result of the investigation would be his decision alone.

"It will be up to me to finalize this investigation," said Wetherington, a former Columbus police chief.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Legal and Ethical, Medical Emergencies

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Image Trend: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

ImageTrend just challenged NEMSIS TAC and a couple others.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.?

A.J. Heightman participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in a big way!
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Numerous Rescues during Arizona Flooding

Severe flooding across the region prompted several rescues.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


More Product Videos >