Safety & Health

NIOSH LODD Report: Firefighter Killed in Fall from Tower Ladder

Tower Ladder 135 above the inside portion of the parapet wall. The platform jerked upwards after being released from the parapet wall ejecting the TL135 fire fighter from the platform. (NIOSH/fire department photo)

On April 20, 2017, a 42-year-old male career fire fighter from Tower Ladder 135 died after being ejected from the platform of a tower ladder. At 1420 hours, the fire department dispatched Battalion 44, Engine 277, Engine 286, Engine 291, Ladder 112, and Tower Ladder (TL) 135 for Box 4017. Engine 277 arrived on scene at 1422 hours. Ladder 112 arrived on scene at 1423 hours. The officer of Ladder 112 radioed the borough dispatcher to transmit a 10-75 (working fire) for Box 4017 at 1425 hours. The additional response for the 10-75 to Box 4017 was: Battalion 35, Squad 252, which was assigned as Engine 252, Squad 288, Ladder 140 (FAST Truck), and Rescue 4. The fire was knocked down at 1431 hours. 

Read the Report:
Fire Fighter Dies after a Fall from the Platform of an Elevated Tower Ladder 

FirefighterNation:
Firefighter Killed in Fall at Queens Apartment Fire

The outside vent (OV) fire fighter for Tower Ladder 135 climbed into the tower ladder platform at approximately 1430 hours. The ladder company chauffeur (LCC) operated the platform from the pedestal and moved the platform to the 2nd floor of the fire building. He stopped the platform to check on a woman in a 2nd floor window. She needed no assistance and was told to shelter in place. The LCC moved the platform towards the 5th floor rooftop fire escape. As the platform passed the 4th floor the LCC radioed the OV fire fighter in the platform to take over the control of the platform. The time was approximately 1434 hours. 

The OV fire fighter talked to a woman on the 5th floor fire escape and she needed no assistance. She was sent to the ground through the Exposure B apartment building via the interior steps. The OV fire fighter moved the platform to the roof and over the parapet wall. After a brief conversation with the roof fire fighter from Ladder 112 the OV fire fighter tried to move TL135’s platform. He thought he was having trouble with the platform’s joystick, but actually the brackets under the platform were caught/stuck on the concrete cap of the parapet wall. 

The OV fire fighter asked the LCC to take control of the platform. The LCC also had trouble moving the platform and, like the OV, could not see the reason for the problem. At 14:38:59 hours, the platform suddenly released from the parapet cap causing a violent upward movement and ejecting the OV fire fighter from the platform. The fire fighter fell 5 stories to the concrete sidewalk below. 

Fire fighters from other companies rushed to provide medical care of the fire fighter. The fire fighter was moved to a stretcher and placed in Medic Unit 45Y. He was transported to a trauma center at 1443 hours and arrived at 1445 hours. The fire fighter was pronounced dead at 1518 hours.

Contributing Factors:

  • Building construction and roof operations
  • Procedures for operation of a tower ladder
  • Apparatus platform design
  • Training
  • Multi-family residential building not sprinklered

Key Recommendations:

  • Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters recognize roof design, height restrictions, and safety issues when operating tower ladders in the close vicinity of parapet walls
  • Fire departments should ensure that tower ladders and other aerial platforms are designed to reduce or eliminate the potential for snagging on buildings or other surfaces
  • Fire departments should ensure fire fighters use the escape harness carabineer or ladder belt to secure to the platform during tower ladder operations
  • Fire departments should provide proficiency training for fire fighters on the operations of tower ladders.