Police report: DC fire truck's brakes failed in crash with police vehicle

- A 13-page police report obtained by FOX 5 says the brakes of a fire engine failed and caused a crash that involved a D.C. police cruiser last week.

This information contradicts what the fire chief initially said after the accident.

When Engine 28 crashed into a D.C. police scout car last Monday, it was responding with lights and siren on down Porter Street to a reported fire on the other side of Rock Creek Park.

But as the driver tried to avoid another car, he slammed on the brakes, but the fire engine kept on moving, crashing into a police car that had pulled to the side of the road to let the engine go by.

According to a report, the driver told police the brakes failed.

The same report says, "The preliminary inspection of Vehicle #1 (Engine 28) revealed that the vehicle had defective brakes.”

It is a discovery by the D.C. police’s major crash division, which repeated its finding twice more on page 4, saying the brakes malfunctioned and there was functional damage.

However, one day after the crash, D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean told FOX 5 the brakes were fine.

“What we know right now is that the brakes did pass the test, they were good, they have a funny alignment problem pulling to the left, but the brakes did work,” said Chief Dean.

On Monday, after seeing the report, the firefighter’s union said all of the department's vehicles should now be reinspected.

“We need to ensure those vehicles are safe and we need to make sure that there are the proper people that are certified to check and inspect those vehicles, repair them if necessary and are available to do it,” said Dabney Hudson, second vice president of the D.C Firefighters Association IAFF Local 36. “If that means that they are a third party or outside vendor, we absolutely believe that is what needs to be done.”

The accident report also says the Fleet Maintenance Division was notified of an air leak problem on the engine that morning, but it remained in service. There is no mention of an issue with the brakes.

Hudson could not explain why the fire chief would say the engine had passed inspection when it had not and says the outcome could have been much worse.

“There is always potential in a situation like that for significant injury or loss of life,” he said. “We are fortunate in this situation there wasn’t, but it could have definitely, if there is a brake failure, that the potential is always there for something to be catastrophic and we are lucky that we weren’t in this situation.”

One firefighter and the police officer in the scout car were both injured. They have both been released from the hospital, but the injuries they sustained are unknown.

D.C. Fire and EMS released a new release on the police report:

The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (DCFEMS) received the final accident report from the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) Major Crash Unit on Friday, October 9. The report indicated that faulty brakes on the fire engine may have caused of the accident that occurred at 4:09 p.m. Monday, October 5 on the 2700 block of Porter St. NW.

“We have received the accident report provided by the Metropolitan Police Department,” said DCFEMS Chief Gregory M. Dean. “We will continue to test our apparatus to ensure that their braking systems are fully functional and allow our vehicles to stop safely.”

An independent review by the Department found an imbalance in the braking system that pulled the vehicle to the left. A device called a ‘cage’ was engaged on the rear right axle. This device, which manually releases the parking brake for towing, may have contributed to the apparatus to being pulled hard to the left when the brakes were applied. The vehicle was last towed in August 2014.

The members did notify the Apparatus Division on the morning of their tour of duty about an air leak from the braking system. The leak was not sufficient enough to place the apparatus out-of-service.  A significant air leak would have restricted the apparatus from moving until enough pressure had returned.

Prior to the accident, the vehicle was last seen by the Apparatus Division on September 23, 2015 for the synchronization of the clock meter. Brake work was last done in June 2014.

Since the accident, the Department has instituted a plan to evaluate all of the brakes in its fleet beginning with all apparatus that have been recently towed.

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