DOJ Reverses, Offers Line of Duty Benefits for Off-Duty Fla. Firefighter Killed at Accident Scene

Firehouse.Com News

The U.S. Department of Justice has reversed its earlier decision and will award federal line of duty death benefits to the widow of Firefighter Shane Kelly of Oviedo, Fla. The decision was announced Friday.

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.

Kelly's wife will receive $259,038 in Federal public safety officer death benefits, and Kelly will be included in the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial at the National Fire Academy in Maryland.

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 originally denied by DOH 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 was informed of legislation passed in Florida May 8 by Gov. Jeb Bush, which requires public safety officers to respond to any emergency situation they encounter, and had reconsidered its earlier decison to deny Kelly the benefits.

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.

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.