Chief: Gainesville tragedy won’t be re­peated here

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG news@cov­

Three Hall County fire­fight­ers were in­jured Tues­day af­ter a fire truck lad­der col­lapsed un­der them dur­ing train­ing. The ac­ci­dent re­sulted in the Sut­phen Corp. ask­ing fire de­part­ments na­tion­wide to pull some mod­els of their lad­der-trucks from ser­vice.

But New­ton County’s only tower-lad­der truck isn’t a Sut­phen. It isn’t even on the street. It’s for sale, ac­tu­ally.

Covington Fire Depart­ment Chief John McNeil said the depart­ment’s tower truck, a com­bi­na­tion LTI aerial and IMC cab, is “sur­plus” and for sale. Sut­phen’s re­quest to park all of its SPH 100, SP 110, SPI 112 and SAI 110 Aerial trucks isn’t a fac­tor lo­cally. He said the sur­plus tower is the only such truck in the county.

Covington has three in-ser­vice lad­der trucks, which dif­fer from tow­ers like the one in Tues­day’s ac­ci­dent in that they don’t have “buck­ets” at the lad­der’s top. New­ton County has two lad­der trucks.

None­the­less, McNeil said Tues­day’s ac­ci­dent serves as a re­minder why the depart­ment ser­vices its lad­der trucks daily.

“There’s no guar­an­tees,” he said Thurs­day. “Some­thing could hap­pen. That’s why we do checks on the aerial (trucks) ev­ery day.”

In ad­di­tion, an in­de­pen­dent com­pany checks and cer­ti­fies each lad­der truck ev­ery year.

“Those are the things we do to try to pre­vent (ac­ci­dents) from hap­pen­ing, but there’s no 100 per­cent guar­an­tee of any­thing,” he said.

Testing on the fallen Sut­phen truck was ex­pected to be­gin Thurs­day.

The three Hall County fire­fight­ers, mean­while, were in in­ten­sive care Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to Covington News sis­ter pa­per the Gainesville Times. One of the fire­fight­ers broke his back. Hall County Fire Mar­shal Scott Cagle told Times’ re­porter Nick Wat­son that all three were do­ing well.

Do­na­tions for the fire­fight­ers can be made to the Hall County In­jured Fire­fight­ers Fund, Hall County Com­mu­nity Credit Union, 2601 Lime­stone Park­way, Gainesville, 770-534-4255.

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