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Thread: Russell, Kansas Fire Chief Killed in Accident

  1. #1
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    Russell, Kansas Fire Chief Killed in Accident

    Russell, Kansas Fire Chief Killed in Accident

    JOY LEIKER
    Story Courtesy of Hays Daily News

    RUSSELL, Kansas -- Russell Fire Chief Earl Hemphill was killed Thursday morning as he directed traffic at the scene of a traffic accident north of town.

    Hemphill, 61, was among the first to respond to the scene on U.S. Highway 281 less than 8 miles north of Russell, where a Suburban pulling a trailer had rolled and blocked the northbound lane of traffic. Both the Suburban and trailer flipped on their tops on the roadway at 10:16 a.m., and according to reports given to Russell County Sheriff John Fletcher, Hemphill stood in the roadway and directed a single lane of traffic around the accident as more emergency crews responded.

    While directing traffic, a second accident occurred involving a Paradise Fire Truck and a sports utility vehicle. The fire truck, driven by Paradise Fire Chief Justin Frye, was reporting to the scene of the first injury accident. Both the fire truck and the sports utility vehicle, driven by Rachelle Standley, the Russell County deputy appraiser, were southbound when the two collided.

    Hemphill was struck at some point in the second accident, although as of this morning, it is unknown which vehicle hit him.

    The fire truck rolled into the west ditch and onto its top. The sports utility vehicle, owned by Russell County, came to rest on its side.

    Traffic was rerouted from the highway to nearby county roads, and the highway remained closed for most of the day. Fletcher said the road wasn't reopened until about 6 p.m.

    The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating the accident. The KHP's accident reports were not available this morning. A spokeswoman in Salina said she didn't expect them to be completed until later today, at the earliest.

    Hemphill was pronounced dead at Russell Regional Hospital. Both Frye and Standley were taken there as well, and Frye was listed in good condition this morning, according to hospital administrator Roger Knak. Standley was transferred to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, where she was listed in fair condition this morning.

    A spokeswoman in the Russell County Appraiser's office said Standley might be released from the hospital later today.

    As uncertainty surrounded the series of accidents, Russell residents and community leaders remembered Hemphill as an active and efficient leader.

    He started as a volunteer firefighter for the city in 1967.

    Fletcher, who has been involved in Russell law enforcement for 17 years and was appointed sheriff in October 1999, noted Hemphill was "very dedicated" to his job.

    Prior to Fletcher's career in law enforcement, he worked for Hemphill as one of the department's on-duty firemen in the early 1980s.

    "He loved what he did," Fletcher said.

    Frank Peirano, retired public works director for the city of Russell, said he and Hemphill had worked together on a number of projects throughout their careers.

    "Earl was very, very dedicated to his job," Peirano said this morning. "He took everything very seriously in his line of duty. I know you have to with that job, but he was exceptional."

    City Councilwoman Nancy Holland said she, along with the entire Russell community, "are in shock."

    "He was just a wonderful man. He was extremely devoted to his job," she said. "I can't think of anybody who enjoyed his job more or who made it more important."

    Services for Hemphill are pending with Pohlman's Mortuary in Russell.


    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2002/ks_apr12.html

  2. #2
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    Truck's Brakes Failed in Accident that Killed Fire Chief

    Truck's Brakes Failed in Accident that Killed Fire Chief

    JOY LEIKER
    Story Courtesy of Hays Daily News


    RUSSELL, Kansas -- The brakes on a 500-gallon, 22-year-old fire truck failed Thursday morning moments before it crashed into a sports utility vehicle and the 61-year-old Russell Fire Chief, who was directing traffic around the scene of an injury accident that had occurred only minutes earlier.

    Earl Hemphill, a 20-year veteran of the Russell Fire Department, was killed after he was hit by the fire truck. He was pronounced dead at Russell Regional Hospital.

    Full honorary services for Hemphill are scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at the Russell High School gymnasium. Firemen and fire officials from around the state are expected to attend.

    In the report released Friday by the Kansas Highway Patrol, the first accident, a rollover, occurred at 10:15 a.m. Dale G. Keller, 41, Ellis, was southbound on U.S. Highway 281 when he passed a suburban towing a trailer, driven by Lewis A. Busby, 57, Greensburg, La.

    As Keller passed the vehicle, Busby lost control and rolled. The suburban and trailer both ended up flipped on their tops in the roadway, less than 8 miles north of Russell.

    Hemphill was among the first of the emergency personnel on the scene. He stood alongside the flipped vehicles and directed traffic around the scene on a single lane of traffic, even as more emergency vehicles arrived.

    Paradise Fire Chief Justin A. Frye, 25, was on his way to that first accident scene when the brakes failed on the company's fire truck. It's custom for one of the rural fire trucks to respond to injury accidents, and this accident occurred inside the boundaries of the Russell County Fire District No. 3.

    Frye, who was admitted to Russell Regional Hospital Thursday, was released on Friday.

    The driver of the sports utility vehicle, Rachelle L. Standley, 28, the Russell County deputy appraiser, was transported first to the Russell hospital. She was transferred to Wesley Medical Center on Thursday, and was released from the Wichita hospital on Friday.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Funeral Arrangements:
    Services will be at 2 p.m. Monday at the Russell High School (Amos Morris) Gymnasium, Russell, with the Rev. Dale Lane officiating; burial in the Russell City Cemetery.

    Visitation will be from noon to 9 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at Pohlman's Mortuary, Russell.

    Memorials are suggested to the Bible Baptist Church, Russell, or the Russell Fireman's Relief Association.


    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2002/ks_apr12b.html

  3. #3
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    Kansas Fire Truck Had History Of Problems

    Kansas Fire Truck Had History Of Problems

    By PHYLLIS J. ZORN
    Courtesy of Hays Daily News

    RUSSELL, Kansas -- The Paradise fire truck whose failed brakes resulted in the death of Russell Fire Chief Earl Hemphill on April 11 was known to have brake problems several months earlier.

    According to the Kansas Highway Patrol's accident report, fire truck 301, a 1980 GMC, crested a hill at 62 mph when the driver, Justin A. Frye, 25, Paradise, saw the scene of an accident below.

    The earlier accident was the reason the Paradise and Russell County rescue units responded to the location north of Russell.

    Hemphill was directing traffic when he was struck and killed in the second collision.

    The patrol's accident report states that Frye told troopers it seemed fire truck 301 always was having mechanical problems and was unsafe. Frye said the brakes on truck 301 had failed about six months earlier. On the way to a fire, both the front and back tires locked up. On the return to the fire station, the brakes worked. When the truck was being backed into the garage bay, the brakes failed, resulting in a minor accident. Steve Eickhoff, a mechanic at Masters Oil in Natoma, was contacted about the brakes.

    Eickhoff examined the truck and discovered the left front brake line was cracked. He removed the line and took it to the shop to repair it. When he brought it back, Frye helped him reflare the line, and Eickhoff put it back on the truck. The patrol report includes a copy of a mechanical inspection of the truck performed by Eickhoff. The inspection is dated Aug. 23 and is signed by both Eickhoff and fire Chief John Finkenbinder of the Waldo-Paradise-Natoma rural fire district.

    Mike Cameron, spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's Office, said state regulations require regular inspections of all fire equipment and a record of those inspections to be sent to the fire marshal's office annually. The inspection is required to include the brake system, exhaust, fuel, steering, suspension, frame, tires, electrical and other components of fire trucks. "I searched our database that has records available back as far as 1993, the year the regulation went into effect, and was unable to find any record of inspections for (the) Waldo-Paradise-Natoma Fire Department Truck No. 3 or any other apparatus for that fire department," Cameron said.

    Elena Nuss, assistant state fire marshal, said this morning she has not yet been in touch with the department's legal counsel and does not know whether any action can or will be taken by the fire marshal's office.

    Finkenbinder did not respond this morning to messages left on his answering machine and with his son.

    Frye's statement to troopers was that he took his foot off the gas pedal when he saw the accident scene at the bottom of the hill on April 11. When he stepped on the brake pedal, it went to the floor with no effect. He radioed, "No brakes," to warn the other firefighters at the scene and swerved around a trooper's car, then pulled back into the southbound lane of the highway.

    The truck then hit a 1999 Ford driven by Rachelle L. Standley, 28, Russell, and Hemphill, who was directing traffic at the scene.

    Then fire truck swerved into the west ditch and overturned, coming to rest on its top. The tank separated from the truck. Frye, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the cab.

    A trooper noted that morning the left front brake line on the truck was leaking and that the brake drum area showed damage from brake fluid contamination. There was little brake fluid in the reservoir. When the truck was rolled back onto its wheels, one trooper climbed into the cab and stepped on the brake while another watched the left front brakes. The pedal went all the way to the floor with "no braking action," the patrol's report states.

    The truck was inspected more thoroughly after it was towed to Hays. Troopers determined that besides the leaking brake line that had allowed the brake fluid to seep out, an add-on emergency brake was in the release position. The original emergency brake was disconnected. The front piston and seal were leaking out of the brake dust cover. A piece of plastic from the brake dust cover was wedged between the brake shoe and wheel cylinder, preventing the brake from making a full return. The dust cover itself was broken in several places, and caulk or some other adhesive had been used to hold the broken pieces in place, the patrol's report states.

    Troopers found the automatic transmission control shifted into neutral. Frye was cited Tuesday for driving too fast for conditions and operating an unsafe vehicle.

    Russell County Attorney Daniel Krug said he received a copy of the patrol's report Tuesday but has not read through it. He anticipates receiving additional information from the patrol and has not decided if the citations will be the only charges.

    "I assume there's still more coming," Krug said. "We're reviewing it right now."


    http://www.firehouse.com/news/2002/4/24_Pksbrakes.html

  4. #4
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    Hemphill, Earl

    Age: 61
    Rank: Chief
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 04/11/2002
    Incident Time: 10:30
    Death Date: 04/11/2002

    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Non-Fire Emergencies
    Activity Type: Incident Command
    Fixed Prop. Use: Street/Road

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Russell City Fire Department
    P.O. Box 112
    Russell, Kansas 67665
    Chief: Larry Vaughan

    Initial Summary:
    Chief Hemphill was struck and killed at the scene of a motor vehicle accident by a piece of fire apparatus arriving upon the scene that had lost it's brakes.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1273

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