Wednesday, September 1, 2004
A Raccoon Township volunteer fireman and former school bus driver had been suspended from driving for more than a year when he backed a fire engine over two fellow firefighters, killing one of them. The chief said that there were no spotters behind the truck at the time, and that department policy does not require drivers to have spotters to ensure that no one is behind the engines when they’re backed into garages or in the driveway.But despite having his license suspended because of a medical condition, Frank Brocklebank, 40, of Raccoon, still was allowed to drive firetrucks on department property, Raccoon fire Chief Bert Failor said Tuesday.
On Aug. 25, Brocklebank backed the company’s new 2004 Pierce Saber engine over township firefighters David Vinisky, 49, and James Davidson, 52, both of Raccoon, in the gravel driveway of the fire hall off Patterson Road. Vinisky was crushed to death beneath the truck. Davidson suffered minor injuries. Raccoon police yesterday charged Brocklebank with driving while on medical suspension and being involved in an “accident involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed.” Raccoon police said they did not know the nature of Brocklebank’s medical condition, but did not believe the accident was caused by it. Police Chief David Garber declined to discuss the case further yesterday. The veteran firefighter had his commercial driver’s license suspended in spring 2003, and his standard Class C driver’s license suspended Aug. 2, 2003. Failor said Brocklebank told him about the condition and suspension after first learning of it.
The chief said he then prohibited Brocklebank from driving on public roads. A member of the department for 20 years, Brocklebank previously had driven trucks to fires and other calls, and had a good driving record, Failor said. Brocklebank tested negative for drugs or alcohol after the accident. “If he had a problem like a DUI, I would have banned him from driving,” Failor said. Failor said he believed Brocklebank was allowed under state law to drive trucks as long as it was on department property. Failor said he allowed Brocklebank to drive trucks on department property for maintenance and cleaning. According to state police, the charge — accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed — is applicable to accidents that occur on highways or “trafficways.” Under the state vehicle code, a trafficway is property such as a driveway or parking lot customarily open to public use.The chief said that there were no spotters behind the truck at the time, and that department policy does not require drivers to have spotters to ensure that no one is behind the engines when they’re backed into garages or in the driveway. Brocklebank lost his job as a bus driver for the Hopewell School District in April 2003 after medical tests confirmed his condition, Superintendent Terry Mack said. Brocklebank had been placed on temporary leave a month earlier, when the district learned of the condition, Mack said.