The widow of an Oklahoma firefighter who drown last year in floodwaters has filed a wrongful death suit against the city. Claremore Fire Captain Jason Farley died on May 23, 2015 when he was pulled into a flooded storm drain while at the scene of a water rescue. Captain Farley was 44.
His widow, Shelli Farley, filed suit yesterday in Rogers County District Court alleging the city was liable for Captain Farley’s death because (1) it failed to comply with NFPA 1670, and (2) it was responsible for the storm drain that caught him. At the time of the incident, the grate over the storm drain had been removed.
According to the complaint:
NFPA 1670: Standards on Operation and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents is a national consensus standard that “identifies and establishes levels of functional capability for efficiently and effectively conducting operations at technical search and rescue incidents while minimizing threats to rescuers.”
The defendant City’s Department does not comply with the standards of NFPA 1670.
Department fire fighters had not received proper water rescue training prior to Captain Farley’s drowning death.
At the time of Captain Farley’s death, defendant City’s Department did not have a formal training program supporting swift water rescue at any level.
Had the Department’s fire fighters been properly trained in swift water rescue prior to May 23, 2015, Captain Farley would not have drowned because his colleagues would have safely been able to rescue him from the drainage pipe.
In regards to the city’s responsibility for the storm drain, the complaint alleges:
The City was responsible for maintaining the drainage pipe.
Upon information and belief, the City previously installed grates over this drain at least five times in the past, but removed them. There are visible holes drilled in the area surrounding the drain pipe where the grates used to be attached.
Had the grates been in place on May 23, 2015, Captain Farley would not have drowned.
The suit seeks damages from the city for negligence and wrongful death. It also seeks an injunction “requiring the City to comply with the training standards set forth in NFPA 1670.”
Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.