Off Duty Fla. Firefighter Killed at Accident Scene Reconsidered for LODD Benefits

Firehouse.Com News

The U.S. Department of Justice will reconsider awarding federal line of duty death benefits to the widow of Firefighter Shane Kelly of Oviedo, FL, in light of new information about his actions, officials said.

Kelly was off duty when he pulled over to help an injured motorist on the Florida Turnpike on June 8. A tractor-trailer slid off the road near the accident scene and killed Kelly.

When Kelly's wife Rachel was denied an award through the DOJ's Public Safety Officer's Benefit program, officials from the Oviedo Professional Fire Fighters Local 3476 argued that the City of Oviedo, as well as the State Workman's Compensation Division, had recognized Kelly's death as a line of duty death and drew attention to his case.

DOJ spokeswoman Sheila Jerusalem said that to qualify for benefits, the officer's actions must have been required by his or her position as a safety officer.

Kelly was denied because he was outside his jurisdiction and off duty, and there was no mutual aid agreement showing a requirement for him to respond to this area.

However, the DOJ has since learned of legislation passed in Florida May 8 by Gov. Jeb Bush, which requires public safety officers to respond to any emergency situation they encounter.

Jerusalem said the legislation is explicit in stating that these officers are acting in the line of duty and that the legislation serves as a mutual aid agreement.

Although the DOJ has the same standards for line of duty deaths in every state, the Florida legislation carries weight in Kelly's case because it required him to act.

She said Kelly's widow has appealed the DOJ's decision and they are in the process of assigning a hearing officer to the case and setting a hearing date.

At the hearing, Rachel Kelly or anyone acting on Kelly's behalf, may present this information and the hearing officer will decide whether benefits are warranted.

Jerusalem said the hearing officers are independent of the DOJ and are usually attorneys or law professors. She also said the hearings are very informal, and not meant to intimidate anyone or make them feel that they need to bring an attorney.

Jerusalem said she is unaware of any other state with legislation that requires off duty public safety officers to respond to emergencies. She said Kelly's case may set a precedent in determining line of duty death status.