AFD releases final report on Ben Schultz accident
An Anchorage Fire Department final report offers details on a training accident that severely injured firefighter Ben Schultz this summer.
The report says Schultz fell approximately 100 feet from an aerial ladder during a training exercise -- but no one saw him fall, before he was found by personnel on the ground behind the truck. The report says AFD has not determined what caused him to fall.
AFD Assistant Chief Alex Boyd, discussing the report with KTVA Friday night, said that Schultz didn't fall directly from the ladder to the ground.
"He stayed within the edges of the ladder and almost rolled down the edges of the ladder itself," Boyd said. "Had he fallen outside of the ladder, the injuries would have been much more severe."
The report says Truck 5, the apparatus in use for the training, was inspected and was determined to be operating as expected. But, it does note that the truck has a rear mount aerial platform, from which firefighters perform rescues and shoot water, which has a guardrail that was the subject of a recall sent to AFD four months before Schultz' accident.
The guardrail fix had not been installed at the time of the incident. But, the recall notice and guardrail were inspected by the investigation team and determined to not be a contributing factor in the incident.
Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd says that they know Schultz was on the upper part of the ladder because a nearby business picked it up on surveillance video. But, Boyd says that video does not show Schultz falling.
In regards to no one seeing Schultz fall, Boyd says that Schultz told others he was going outside to set up the truck for training, but says he didn’t tell anyone he was going to climb and no one was there to watch. Boyd says others heard a commotion outside, a “banging” of equipment and says others rushed out right away and found Schultz.
The investigative team concluded that Schultz did not fall from within the platform enclosure (the basket at the end of the ladder) or outside the ladder side rails and that he "most likely fell from the upper section of the ladder as he was transitioning from the platform back to the ladder and/or descending the ladder back to the base platform".
Boyd also says Schultz was wearing a fall-resistant belt; by OSHA standards, it doesn't have to be secured while in motion, but you do have to clip in when you stop.
The final AFD report on the June 5 incident also included two recommendations:
Recommendation #1: A qualified operator should be present at the turntable main control station of aerial ladder apparatus anytime the ladder is being climbed by personnel or if the platform is occupied.
This recommendation is consistent with explicit instructions and warnings provided in the manufacturer’s operation’s manual and displayed at the turntable control station. The investigation team concluded that the turntable control station had been powered off before Firefighter’s climb up the ladder and as a result the platform controls were inoperable. A qualified operator present at the pedestal would have been able to restore power to the aerial ladder controls. Additionally, the operator could monitor the apparatus and respond to any unanticipated operating conditions.
Recommendation #2: Review aerial apparatus operations in the AFD and develop a written program for their use.
There are inherent recognized risks involved with aerial ladder operations. A systematic analysis of aerial operations ensures that those risks are identified and clearly understood within the department. A written program should be considered as a risk management tool to control the risks of aerial operations and to put into place the accepted safe operating practices of aerial ladders during emergency operations and non-emergency operations, including training in the AFD.
Schultz has been recovering in Colorado where he's reportedly making good progress.
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