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  • Firefighter trainer suspended for recruit's death

    FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - A firefighter instructor who allegedly
    failed to recognize a Pennsylvania trainee's fatal heatstroke
    symptoms has been suspended without pay for 30 days, a newspaper
    reported Thursday.
    The Frederick County Commissioners suspended Jeff Coombe late
    last week in connection with the July 2002 death of Andrew J.
    Waybright, The Frederick News-Post reported, citing anonymous
    sources.
    County officials said they could not discuss personnel matters.
    Calls made by The Associated Press to the home of a Jeffrey
    Coombe in nearby Shippensburg, Pa., on Thursday went unanswered.
    Coombe was the instructor of an hour-long, outdoor workout at
    the Frederick County Firefighter Recruit School on July 3, 2002.
    Waybright, 23, of Gettysburg, Pa., collapsed and died near the end
    of the workout, which included calisthenics and a 3.7-mile run
    without water or rest breaks.
    A local board of inquiry found in January that Coombe didn't
    recognize Waybright's symptoms. He told the board he thought
    Waybright was just tired.
    The board's report portrayed the training center as a
    boot-camp-style school staffed by overworked, ill-prepared
    instructors who sometimes ignored recommended safety measures and
    punished laggers with extra push-ups.
    According to a separate report last fall by the Maryland
    Occupational Safety and Health agency, some of the recruits said
    Coombe had yelled at Waybright to "pick up his feet" during the
    exercises.
    Coombe is the second member of the school's staff to be
    disciplined for the incident. Founder Stanley Poole, who headed the
    emergency services division at the time, was demoted last fall and
    later resigned.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  • #2
    Thirty measly days suspension for this jerk? And it took them a YEAR to come up with that? Sickening. When does the jail sentance start?
    Omnis Cedo Domus

    www.hinckleyfd.org

    Comment


    • #3
      People never learn. I have a question for people on the forums. Has anyone here ever had to run 3.7 miles either to or from a fire or while operating at the scene? I know I haven't. I have always been told not to run on the fireground. I am all for exercise but in my opinion running proves nothing, it does nothing but screw up your knees. There are other ways to improve endurance other than running.
      Northeast Fire Photos

      Comment


      • #4
        More Information

        The following link has a thread containing a lot of discussion on this incident. Use the link and then find select Maryland as the area you are looking for and then Frederick County....

        http://www.thewatchdesk.com/forums/
        09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
        ------------------------------
        IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
        "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
        BMI Investigator
        ------------------------------
        The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

        Comment


        • #5
          I won't go into the ethics or punishments of the instructor other than to say that he broke a couple of the "Commandments of Leadership" in that he obviously did not know the strengths and weaknesses of his subordinate (the student) and he did not promote his student's health and welfare. Nuff said on that from me.

          On a slightly different note, a few years ago (ok it was almost 10yrs ago) we had a bout of similar incidents with the Canadian Army. On at least two separate occasions there were two deaths that were attributated directly to trainee physical training. The first was a young infanteer in the CFB Petawawa area, who died while on a company route march in the middle of summer, heat exhaustion was given as cause. Not long after that another infanteer (what is it with these guys???) also died due to heat exhaustion while training for the DANCON march in the Golan Heights. This march is to celebrate a historical event of which I cannot remember the details, but it's an annual event for the troops who are deployed on United Nations ops.

          I remember sitting around the lunch table discussion these events with my co-workers. First we all found it hard to belive that these young men died from over heating, and second we all agreed that in both cases these were avoidable events. I won't even try to call them "accidents" because they were AVOIDABLE. I also remember us wondering: "Where were his buddies during this? Why weren't they watching out for each other?"

          Both deaths were completely avoidable, and our military physical fitness training directives have been changed (should have been common sense in the first place) to reflect minimum rest/rehydration periods while engaged in hot climate operations. This also includes having scheduled rotations for lookouts onboard ships and roving supervisors to ensure proper health of the troops.
          Last edited by MalahatTwo7; 08-01-2003, 11:25 AM.
          If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

          "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

          "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

          Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

          impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

          IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

          Comment


          • #6
            The US Army figured out years ago it was stupid to kill soldiers in training particulairly during physical training. Still happens occasionally dispite extraordinary ongoing effort in planning and in leader training (train the trainer) compared to any fire service.

            Killing a man during physicial training however rises to the level of inexcusible (exception being an undiscovered physical defect). Leaders are responsible to know the heat injury history (heat exhaustion/stroke) of their soldiers. To keep soldiers hydrated and to monitor their condition. During periods of extreme high temp PT training may occur in the middle of the night. It apperars that the "trainers" of this young man were incompetent in the most basic tasks of a trainer.

            So what is different about the fire service regarding necessary conditioning compared to an infantry soldier? High individual loads (weight), extreme stress, in all extremes of weather, etc. Requirement is to be physically strong with above average upper body strength, physically flexible, above average lung capacity, etc. In otherwords have a well trained and fit cardiovasculary system and major muscle groups is essential for an infantryman and AND a fireman. Is it just inconvient to have the such expectations of a fireman?

            Regarding running. I've heard the whining about knees for years. In 90% of the cases from those that just did not WANT to run. Get a good pair of running shoes and replace them every 6 months/500mi, essential if you have bad knees. Run no more than every other day. If your individual genetics blessed you with whimpy knees alternate running with agressive bicycling or swimming. Alternate distance endurance runs with sprints etc.

            Why running? No expensive equipment required, provides an variable and intensive workout of the arm/legs and cardiovascular system, mildly entertaining if you vary your running route. Have to get in the habit and be disciplined (self or imposed). If it is hot run, at 0500 and live or at 1200 and die. Not a hard decision but run (requires disciple).

            Train young and it will stay with you for the rest of you life.

            Comment


            • #7
              Please, before you start crucifying someone, get ALL the facts. I am a personal friend of the "jerk" you guys are bashing and I know the WHOLE story. First: Jeff did in fact notice the recruit's symptoms and told him, numerous times, to stop running. The recruit elected to go on. Second: Jeff instructed all recruits to bring water with them. Again, for some reason, the recruit did not. Third: The recruits who testified that Jeff yelled and "punished" with pushups admitted to lying. Lastly: the academy training officer instructed Jeff to conduct P.T. He was following orders.

              Please, get the facts before you say something.

              Thanks

              Comment


              • #8
                mattmedic>>>>>

                Well.......

                >If....He noticed the symptoms told him to stop PT, but then allowed to disobey orders and allowed him to continue then he was not totally in control of the students. (I wonder if prior to that the students had been "scared" into the mindset that if they did not PT one day they may wash out....I only say that because I have witnessed some attitudes by instructors in Recruit Schools in both Maryland and Virginia that were that way.)

                >If....He was ordered to conduct PT and in fact felt it was unsafe to do so....did he point that out??? If so, (and he testified to that) and he was still ordered to do so, he should have balked because as an instructor, he is ultimately responsible for the safety of his students. Just because he was "ordered" to do so....does that mean he "has to do it"??? What if he had been ordered to have the students go in a smoke filled building with temperatures that exceeded safe level, but without SCBA. Any one with 1 brain cell could figure that is unsafe...right? But...he was ordered to do so...would he do it? The instructor is charged with the safety of his students

                >If....He told students to bring water and they did not....The student did not follow instructions and needed behavior modification. But if the instructor already thought it was not the right weather to PT...then ordering additional PT (such as Push-ups) was a bad decision. (yes....I read where you said that the students said they lied.....HE SAID/SHE SAID)[/i]

                Lastly, I find it hard to beleive that if during the investigation, which I am sure was very thorough, that if the students admitted to lieing, the investigation board would not have considered that in the findings. I find it hard to believe that if he was not guilty of negligence that they convicted and punished him.

                It is noble of you to protect your friend....were you involved? (just curious)
                09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
                ------------------------------
                IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
                "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
                BMI Investigator
                ------------------------------
                The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

                Comment


                • #9
                  [
                  "Jeff did in fact notice the recruit's symptoms and told him, numerous times, to stop running. The recruit elected to go on."
                  Being a recent graduate of a very tough and proven academy, I know the pressures that are on the recruits to succeed. Failure is not an option, especially with your career on the line. That said, Why would he let him continue with the run. Instructors do not let recruits stay in fire situations when it is going to be harmful, why would you not look out for the recruits when it comes to this.


                  "Jeff instructed all recruits to bring water with them. Again, for some reason, the recruit did not. "
                  July, with high heat and a intense physical workout. He should not have been allowed to do the run without water. Goes back to responsibility.

                  "Lastly: the academy training officer instructed Jeff to conduct P.T. He was following orders. "
                  And that makes it right that he died. Because the Instructor was under orders. Sorry, not going to buy that one.
                  Last edited by F18Wub; 08-08-2003, 11:20 AM.
                  IACOJ, Flatlander Division

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Captstanm1,

                    Thanks for your input. No, I was not involved. I work in Montgomery County. Jeff works in Frederick County. They are bordering agencies, however, are separate. Jeff and I are friends from Pa. Yes, I am protecting a friend's character because I know that Jeff is an outstanding firefighter and he is not one to inflict undo punishment on others. He has suffered dearly over this incident and some of the comments made on this thread did frustrate me.
                    I agree that the training academys here in MD and VA are pretty brutal and the standard is high for career folks. People want to do well and will go to any extreme to accomplish that. Especially when it is a combination career/volunteer department.
                    Jeff did mention to the academy staff about the heat and was still advised to do p.t., but shorten the run, which he did. I cannot defend his actions regarding allowing the recruit to contunue dispite the fact that he did not have water with him. Jeff was in fact cleared of criminal charges, however, civil charges are pending.
                    The bottom line is someone died and that should have never happened. There were obvious lessons learned and appropriate actions have been taken to prevent future incidents. Ironically I read today that there was an incident involving a death of a recruit in Florida.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      One last comment. To my knowledge, the recruits who gave false testimonies about the details of the incident were delt with accordingly.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes...unfortunately there was a fatality in Florida....another one... during a training exercise.

                        I am all about safety, having had some close calls myself in the real world and have beem injured in a training exercise (that I was conducting) (long story for another time)because of something that I did that was irresponsible and just plain DUMB. No one was hurt but me in this incident and I was just plain dumb. After that I became very **al about fire ground safety and training safety. I am a firm believer in "lighting them up" but within reason.

                        I mentioned the Va and Md training academies because I have been a part of teaching in both of them and knew how they were. I have been associated with some that were so paramilitary that is was scary.

                        Your friend was cleared criminally, but that does not mean he did not break some rules or follow proper procedure. I not only blame him, but blame staff for directing him to continue. He is charged with the safety of his personnel. Yet, he continued to conduct the training despite the fact he went on record saying it was unsafe. Again...the extremem analogy....If they had told him to blindfold the recruits, tie their hands and put them in the middle of I-70 during rush hour and told them to find their way out to simulate quick egress in dangerous conditions would he have done it even though he knows it was safe? He was the lead instructor and if there was no safety officer for that day, then he was responsible for safety. And in my opinion.......the safety officer in training should supercede and halt any unsafe acts immediately, despite the orders from the "ivory palace."

                        I will say this in closing. He did not act appropriately, he was cleared of criminal charges, an internal investigation obviously found him negligent in following some sort of policy or SOG and punished him appropriatly. It is done. He will live with that memory forever and it may end his career. We can only hope it does not. The important thing is this.....IT MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!!!

                        How much sense does it make for training to be so aggressive and harsh and orders from above to supercede safety to a point where we are killing recruits? If we are gonna kill them in training, then let's just line em up and shoot em and be over it!

                        Ok...so I did not close... I would also be interested in finding out why the recruits falsified statements and then withdrew them and told the truth.
                        09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
                        ------------------------------
                        IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
                        "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
                        BMI Investigator
                        ------------------------------
                        The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Unfortunately I do not have the answer to that. I don't know why they changed their story.

                          I agree with you that Jeff did not do the right thing. It was just frustrating reading some of the comments made about him. (not from you) He made a mistake and believe me, he won't make it again. I also agree with you that just because he was criminaly cleared he isn't still held responsible. And he understands that. He should have really questioned the training officer and made sure everyone had adaquate water. Hind sight will always be 20-20.

                          Yes, the fire training here in MD is very paramilitary. Here in Montgomery County they are pretty tough on recruits. Frederick County is growing and developing their training around Montgomery County. I didn't really understand why they had to be so tough on folks. I am prior military and I understand the importance of the job, but some people seem to take it a bit far.

                          Capt., thank you for your insight and comments. I can tell that you have been doing this for a while and I highly respect you. Please stay safe out there.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - The parents of a firefighter recruit who
                            died during training in July 2002 filed a $1 million wrongful death
                            lawsuit Tuesday against Frederick County and its fire academy
                            leaders.
                            James and Shirley Waybright of Gettysburg, Pa., are seeking
                            damages from the county and from current and former members of the
                            Department of Fire and Rescue Services for the death of their son,
                            Andrew Waybright, 23.
                            Frederick County Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. declined to
                            comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Frederick County Circuit
                            Court.
                            Waybright died from heat stroke after collapsing during a
                            training run on July 3, 2002. Civilians who stopped to help and
                            offered to call 911 were shooed away by academy personnel who said
                            the recruit was "just played out," according to a local board of
                            inquiry's report released last year.
                            The report portrayed the Frederick County Public Training Center
                            as a boot-camp-style school staffed by overworked, ill-prepared
                            instructors who sometimes ignored recommended safety measures and
                            punished laggers with extra push-ups.
                            An earlier report by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health
                            Administration cited the county for making the recruits exercise
                            outdoors without water breaks or adequate monitoring in conditions
                            that exceeded heat-stress safety levels.
                            The county has shut down the school. Its former commander,
                            Stanley Poole, resigned after being demoted.

                            (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
                            Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
                            Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

                            *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
                            On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              www.thewatchdesk.com/forum


                              I am sure they got a few critiques on this.
                              Proud Right-Wing Extremist since 1992

                              "Extreme Liberalism is a Mental Disorder"- Michael Savage

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