Video obtained by the News 4 I-Team shows a Nashville Fire recruit fall during a training drill at the city’s new training tower.
The internal review of the accident also reveals that the recruit, Jennifer Lockhart, claims she asked for a safety line before she fell and was denied by the fire captain overseeing the training.
Lockhart has since retained attorney Rocky McElhany, who said in a statement to the News 4 I-Team, “Jennifer’s main focus is getting better and making sure these reckless training drills stop immediately before someone else is hurt or killed.”
The internal review reads on July 17, Lockhart fell during the Nance drill, which teaches how to use to ropes to lower a firefighter down a hole to rescue a fallen comrade.
According to the internal review, District Chief Trey Nelms, who was leading the training, was lowered first.
Lockhart told an investigator for the fire department that she first inquired then if Nelms wanted an additional rope for a safety line.
“I was like, hey chief, can we use this rope? To do safety? And he said, ‘F*** no,’’’ Lockhart said in her interview.
When it was time for Lockhart to be lowered, she told the investigators she made the same request.
“I want a safety line. And he goes, and he just kind of laughed, and he was like, ‘No,’” Lockhart said.
The video showed Lockhart lowered through a hole from the upper floor, and then when she passes through to the first floor, she falls several feet.
It is unclear in the video why Lockhart fell, but when she did, she landed squarely on her oxygen tank.
“I didn’t have any feeling from about my waist down. I just remember waking up and thinking I was paralyzed,” she told an investigator in the HR department. “I remember screaming and then I guess I went unresponsive.”
In the internal investigation, Lockhart told the investigator that the accident was grossly negligent and appeared malicious.
Lockhart said she’d been discriminated against by Nelms for being a female and for having worked on the ambulance shift, creating a very hostile work environment.
In the investigative report, Nelms denied discriminating against Lockhart or any recruit.
While in the investigation, both Lockhart and another recruit claim that she did ask for a safety line, Nelms said he never recalled that occurring.
Nelms said he’d done the Nance drill more than 1,000 times and no accident like this had ever occurred.
“I’m sick about this. I hate it. I’m tore up about it,” Nelms said.
The internal investigation ultimately found there was no evidence to show that Lockhart’s fall was anything other than an unfortunate accident.
While Nelms never said in his interview with investigators if a safety line should have been used, he said he has wracked his brain trying to figure out what could have been done differently.
“If we are allowed to do (the Nance drill) again, I promise you, I’ll be looking at a whole bunch of different things,” Nelms said.
A spokesman for the National Fire Protection Agency, which sets the standards for training, said nothing in the rules pertains to whether or not a safety line should be required for drill such as the Nance exercise.
A spokesman for the Nashville Fire Department said their internal review speaks for itself and declined our request for an interview.