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Thread: Four Venezuelan Firefighters in Texas for Training Die in Crash

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    Four Venezuelan Firefighters in Texas for Training Die in Crash

    Updated: 07-12-2004 09:37:43 AM

    Four Venezuelan Firefighters in Texas for Training Die in Crash

    Associated Press

    ANAHUAC, Texas (AP) -- Driver fatigue may have been a factor in the crash of a sport utility vehicle that killed four Venezuelan firefighters and critically injured a fifth, investigators say.

    The firefighters, who were in Texas for a training course, struck the rear of a semi truck on the shoulder of Interstate 10 early Sunday.

    Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Dana Cothren said the driver of the westbound Explorer drifted onto the shoulder just after 6:30 a.m., striking the parked truck. Cothren said the impact pushed the truck, which did not have a trailer, off the shoulder.

    Two women and two men, including the SUV's driver, died at the scene. A fifth person was taken by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and remained in critical condition early Monday. The truck driver was not seriously injured.

    The victims, whose names were not immediately released pending notification of relatives, were traveling as part of a three-vehicle caravan to College Station to attend a training academy at the Brayton fire schools, according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle's online edition Monday.

    State troopers were trying to determine what caused the SUV to leave the road and strike the truck, whose driver had pulled off to contact his company.

    ``He failed to drive in his lane and struck the back end'' Cothren told the Houston Chronicle in Monday's editions. ``Why he did that _ we don't know. Was he trying to avoid somebody in front of him? We don't know.''

    Ten other Venezuelan firefighters in the convoy went to the hospital to be with the injured firefighter.

    The Chronicle reported the firefighters arrived in Miami on Thursday and were driving to College Station when the crash occurred. They were to attend a Spanish-language training course at Texas A&M University.

    ``The participants, instructors and staff of the Spanish school are deeply saddened by the loss of our comrades in the firefighting profession,'' Les Bunte, emergency training director, said in a statement.

    A memorial service is planned for Wednesday, training academy spokesman Jason Cook said.

    Anahuac is about 40 miles east of Houston.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=32703

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    Houston Firefighters Come To Aid Of Counterparts

    Updated: 07-13-2004 10:37:21 AM

    Houston Firefighters Come To Aid Of Counterparts



    Associated Press

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Houston Fire Department members have been helping fellow firefighters from Venezuela after four of their co-workers were killed and another critically injured in a wreck.

    Fifteen Venezuelans from the Caracas area were heading to a Spanish-language firefighter training course at Texas A&M University when the accident occurred at about 6:40 a.m. Sunday east of Houston.

    ``We wanted to help any way we could and they poured out their hearts to us. It made me cry,'' said Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie, who spent seven hours with 10 Venezuelan firefighters who survived the accident without injury.

    ``They talked about being in a strange country, unable to really speak the language and not knowing anyone,'' he told the Houston Chronicle for its Tuesday editions. ``They said they will always hold a special place in their hearts for Houston firefighters, as we will for them.''

    Jocelyn Garriga, an HFD engineer operator and paramedic who speaks Spanish, took the group to the downtown logistics building and gave them a tour of a fire station.

    ``They were very thankful for being taken around instead of just staying in their hotel room and thinking about what happened,'' she said.

    At the request of the Venezuelans, Houston firefighters also located a Spanish-speaking priest who could pray with them, Boriskie said. And he said that Houston's stress management team was called to help the Venezuelans cope with the loss, the chief said.

    ``We were not only co-workers,'' said Venezuelan fire captain Hector Jimenez. ``We are all good friends.''

    The Venezuelans had flown into Miami and were driving to College Station on Sunday in three sport utility vehicles, authorities said.

    For an unknown reason, the last vehicle in the caravan struck the rear of a tractor-trailer that had pulled onto the shoulder on Interstate 10 in Chambers County.

    The truck driver, 64-year-old Daniel Hopper of Silsbee, was legally parked to contact his home office, officials said. He was treated for minor injuries and released.

    The two men and two women from Venezuela who died on impact were 29-year-old driver Jose Gantes Frias, 26-year-old Adelis Idler Alvares and Carolina Moreales-Linares, 34, all of Caracas; and Antonio Colemenares, 60, of Laguaira.

    The SUV's only other occupant, 50-year-old Gorge Zea of Caracas, was flown to Hermann Memorial Hospital, where he remained in critical condition Monday.

    Still under investigation is the accident's cause, including the possibility that the driver may have fallen asleep.

    While the group never got to attend the firefighter school as they had planned, the school plans to remember those who died with a memorial on Wednesday, said school spokesman Jason Cook. He said a more detailed presentation about the group will be made at the graduation banquet Thursday.

    The Venezuelan consulate, who provided hotel lodging for the stranded crew, is helping families make arrangements to ship the bodies of the four home for burial.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=32760

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