Washington Park Volunteer Fire Department sued by fire fighter over injuries at controlled burn

By Kelly Holleran | Feb 26, 2013

A volunteer firefighter has filed suit against the volunteer fire department for which he was working when he claims he sustained multiple broken bones in his feet as a fellow firefighter drove a truck away from a controlled burn without first detaching a water hose.

William J. Wirtel claims he was working at a controlled burn near the corner of 5416 Forest Boulevard and 55th Street in the Village of Washington Park on Jan. 29, 2011, when the incident occurred.

Wirtel was standing near a hose line that was connected to a fire hydrant on one end and Fire Engine 5812 on the other. Suddenly, defendant Odell Smith drove the fire engine away from the fire hydrant, according to the complaint filed Jan. 25 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

“As a direct result of defendant, Odell Smith’s, operation of The Fire Engine, the hose line became taut and disconnected from the hydrant,” the suit states. “As a direct result of defendant, Odell Smith’s, operation of The Fire Engine, the hose line struck plaintiff William J. Wirtel.”

Because of the incident, Wirtel suffered three broken bones in his feet, endured an AC-1 pelvic injury, experienced a left Achilles tendon tear and suffered from a staph infection, the complaint says. Wirtel claims he also experienced a perforated bladder and a closed head injury and incurred medical costs of more than $200,000.

Smith negligently failed to keep a careful lookout, failed to brake, failed to establish radio communication with Wirtel before driving the fire truck, failed to sound a warning of his intention to operate the fire truck and failed to use a hose intake line, among other negligent actions, according to the complaint.

Wirtel also names the Washington Park Volunteer Fire Department as a defendant, saying Smith was driving its vehicle when the incident occurred.

In his complaint, Wirtel is seeking a judgment of more than $100,000.

Robert J. Sprague of Sprague and Urban in Belleville will be representing him.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-46.

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