The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program has released the investigation report of the 2009 line of duty death of a Georgia firefighter/paramedic who died two days after having been ejected during an ambulance rollover.
On December 26, 2009, a 37-year-old male career fire fighter/paramedic (the victim) was ejected from the front passenger seat of a fire department ambulance during a rollover incident. The ambulance was responding with lights and siren to a car fire with injuries. A motorist in a privately owned vehicle (POV) turned into the path of the ambulance as it was passing the POV. The ambulance struck the POV, lost control, and left the right side of the roadway. The ambulance overturned three times, and the victim was ejected. The driver sustained minor injuries.
The victim’s use of a seat belt could not be determined with certainty. The victim was airlifted by helicopter to a local trauma center where blunt force chest injuries, and underlying medical conditions, contributed to his death on December 28, 2009.
- Failure of the motorist to yield the right-of-way to an approaching emergency vehicle with audible and visual signals in use
- Ejection of the victim
- Blunt chest trauma resulting in multiple rib fractures
- The victim’s underlying medical conditions.
- States and authorities having jurisdiction should take steps to ensure that motorists are aware of, understand, and follow state traffic codes/laws pertaining to yielding the right-of-way to approaching, authorized emergency vehicles using audible and visual signals
- Fire departments should take steps to ensure that seat belts are properly worn at all times
Additionally, governing municipalities (federal, state, regional, and local) should:
- Consider enacting legislation to include drivers and occupants of fire department vehicles in existing seat belt legislation and/or repeal existing laws that exempt drivers and occupants of fire service vehicles from mandatory seat belt use.