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Thread: Firefighter Recruit Dies In Training Exercise

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Firefighter Recruit Dies In Training Exercise

    Firefighter Recruit Dies In Training Exercise
    Four Other Trainees Also Overcome By Heat

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Five Miami-Dade County firefighter recruits were overcome by heat today during a training exercise at Port Everglades today, and one of them died before reaching the hospital.

    The five were taken to Broward General Medical Center, two reportedly in serious condition.

    Wayne Mitchell, 37, was pronounced dead at Broward General Medical Center.

    The firefighters were training at the Resolve Marine Fire School at 3305 S.E. 19th Avenue.

    According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, the incident happened just before 10 a.m. during a simulated shipboard fire.

    Mitchell, four other recruits and three instructors, were participating in the training exercise. At the completion of the exercise, instructors quickly realized Mitchell did not come out of the makeshift ship. Instructors went inside and pulled Mitchell out.

    According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, this 27-member class of trainee recruits started on June 23. They are scheduled to graduate in late December, and then begin probationary employment.

    The other trainees who required medical care were Olga Love, Antonio Mesa, Jose Medina, and Miguel Rojas. They were treated and released.

    BSO homicide detectives, Hollywood Fire and the State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating Mitchell's death.

  2. #2
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    Jan 2002
    Mitchell, Wayne

    Age: 37
    Cause of Death:
    Rank: Firefighter Recruit
    Nature of Death:
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 08/08/2003
    Duty Type: Training
    Incident Time: 10:00
    Activity Type: Other
    Death Date: 08/08/2003
    Fixed Prop. Use:

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Miami-Dade Fire Rescue
    118 N 14th St.
    Miami , Florida 33178-2414
    Chief: Antonio Bared

    Initial Summary:
    Firefighter Mitchell was overcome by heat during simulated shipboard fire training at the Resolve Marine Fire School in Port Everglades, FL and died while in transit to the hospital. Several other firefighter recruits suffered heat injuries in this training incident but were treated and released from the hospital.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    C/o Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, 118 N 14th St., Miami, FL 33178-2414, (786) 331-5000

  3. #3
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Sweltering Heat Blamed for Training Death of Florida Fire Recruit

    Sweltering Heat Blamed for Training Death of Florida Fire Recruit

    Courtesy of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    A Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue recruit died during a training exercise in August because he was exposed to a heat so intense that it started to melt one recruit's helmet and compelled three instructors to flee the building early, the Broward County Medical Examiner said Thursday.

    Wayne Mitchell, 37, had two minor heart conditions that were undetectable when he was alive but that made him more susceptible to develop an abnormal heartbeat and contributed to his death, Dr. Joshua Perper said.

    Sam Spatzer, a lawyer for Mitchell's widow, said the former lifeguard was a healthy, vigorous man who would not have died if the Fire-Rescue Department's training, conducted at the Resolve Fire & Hazard Response center in Port Everglades, had been safe.

    "From our investigation, there seem to be a number of departures from accepted [training] standards," Spatzer said Thursday.

    Moreover, Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Chief Antonio Bared and his staff in charge of training knew about the problems.

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel obtained a copy of an anonymous letter outlining many of the hazards faced by Mitchell and his fellow recruits. The writer said he was a Miami-Dade firefighter.

    "Depending on the attitude/temperament of the instructors on any given day, the recruits are constantly mentally and physically abused," the letter said.

    "[One training officer] has said on many occasions that he will do whatever is necessary to hurt the recruits -- whatever it takes to make them quit. My main concern is that the gentlemen will not quit and something more serious will take place such as heat exhaustion, stroke, or even death."

    The letter was written May 29 -- more than two months before Mitchell's death on Aug. 8.

    Miami Dade Fire-Rescue spokesman Capt. Louie Fernandez acknowledged Thursday that department officials had received the letter. He could not offer many details on what happened after that.

    "It was taken seriously, even though it was anonymous," he said. "I can tell you it was looked at. It was given very significant attention. But that's really all I can say, because it might be part of the investigation."

    Mitchell's death is being investigated by the Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Department, the Broward Sheriff's Office, the state fire marshal's office and federal safety officials.

    Bared transferred all of the instructors out of the training division, but not until after Mitchell's death. He was prompted to do so after reading information collected by Broward Sheriff's Office homicide detectives, Fernandez said last month. Bared declined to divulge the contents of the report.

    Mitchell and four classmates went through their first live-fire exercise the morning of Aug. 8. Donning full protective gear and breathing apparatus, they were supposed to make their way through a steel structure designed to simulate a burning ship.

    Two other recruit groups had gone through before them. It was so hot inside the box during Mitchell's drill that three of the instructors bailed out early, Perper said. After that, four exhausted recruits, one of whom suffered a serious burn to his right hand, managed to make their way out of the building. Mitchell did not.

    He got separated from the crew and collapsed inside the dark, smoky, sweltering building. Investigators have not yet said how much time passed before anyone discovered Mitchell was missing.

    Two instructors went back into the building to find him, but it took them two passes to do so. Mitchell was still wearing his breathing apparatus, but he was in cardiac arrest. He also suffered burns to his hands and knees. He died a short time later at Broward General Medical Center.

    His family's lawyer said the training instructors' macho, hard-driving attitude created a dangerous environment. Spatzer said he plans to prove that they showed "reckless indifference" for the recruits' safety.

    "You shouldn't subject a trainee with the lowest level of knowledge to a boot camp-type atmosphere," Spatzer said.

    "They wait for years, and when their number is called, they want to be firefighters. It's a passion, not a job," he said. "To expose them to these types of conditions is really the thrust of the problem ... You shouldn't have to put your life at unreasonable risk in a training drill."

  4. #4
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    Jan 2002
    Miami-Dade Fire Officials Disciplined in Recruit's Death

    Updated: 09-25-2006 05:57:20 PM

    Story by

    Three years after Miami-Dade firefighter recruit Wayne Mitchell died during a training exercise, some fire officials are now facing disciplinary action.

    In August 2003, Mitchell went into a burn room in Port Everglades, which was meant to simulate the smoke and fire he might face in a real emergency.
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    According to an investigation, some of his instructors fled the burn room because of the heat. Mitchell became disoriented and overwhelmed. He collapsed inside and later died.

    Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Herrera was the on-site training commander that day.

    A review panel concluded that he and others were responsible for major lapses in communication, supervision and judgment that day. Miami-Dade Fire Chief Herminio Lorenzo said he moved to fire Herrera.

    "He was told the recommendation of the panel was going to be termination and that was the disciplinary action that was going to take place," Lorenzo said. "The chief reason is that one person lost his life in that incident, an incident that you were responsible for."

    Herrera, a 30-year veteran, said he'd retire a year or two early instead of being fired. Two other former chiefs did the same.

    But for Mitchell's family, the long-awaited discipline seems hollow.

    "And now they walk away and retire but get to go home to their families, get to have their holidays, get to do everything in life. He's gone. He's gone from my family," said Mitchell's sister, Chrissy Mitchell.

    At least one of the instructors in the burn room at the time, Capt. Jerome Byrd, is still facing a recommended two weeks' suspension even though he told NBC 6 and his superiors that recruits were being pushed too hard, too quickly at the time of Wayne Mitchell's death.

    Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said it has overhauled training procedures and supervision, and is on the verge of building its own state-of-the-art training facility.

    "They have to make sure that everyone around them is safe. That is their No. 1 responsibility," Lorenzo said.

    Herrera did not return NBC 6's calls for comment. Byrd did not comment Wednesday because his disciplinary action is not finalized.

    Groundbreaking on the new training facility, which will be named for Mitchell, is scheduled for early 2007.

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