The recently released 2012 Incident Review Summary mentioned a report that we were not aware had been released — the engine rollover fatality that occurred June 9, 2012 on the Montezuma Fire in Arizona. Killed in the accident was the Bureau of Indian Affairs engine boss, Anthony Polk, 31, of Yuma, Arizona. Two crewmembers were injured, one very seriously.
The three-person crew was en route to their assignment that morning. The AD crewmember driving was in his first fire season and had started work five days before. He received a valid Federal Motor Vehicle Operator’s ID card on May 3, 2012 about a month before he started work.
Below is an excerpt from the report:
Approximately 0745-0800 – The engines left the spike camp with Engine 1252 in the lead. Engine 6351 followed Engine 1252. Engine 6351 was being driven by Crewmember 2. Crewmember 1 occupied the middle seat, and the ENGB occupied the passenger side of the engine. The engines headed south on Indian Reservation Route 19. The engines drove up a moderate grade for the first couple of miles, crested the hill, and then started down a slight decline.
Approximately 0800 – The driver (Crewmember 2) stated that as they were driving and without prompting, the ENGB passed Crewmember 2 a bottle of water that had been on the dashboard on the passenger side where Crewmember 2 had previously been sitting. Crewmember 2 took the bottle and put it between his legs. The ENGB passed Crewmember 2 a second bottle of water and told Crewmember 2 to put the bottle behind his back.
As Crewmember 2 put the water bottle behind the back of his seat, he drifted off the right hand side of the road. He tried to steer the engine back onto the road, but overcorrected and went across both lanes of the road into the dirt on the other side. The engine flipped forward, landing with the weight on the hood and cab. The engine bounced, landed on its wheels and coasted across the highway (from east to west), coming to rest on the west side of the highway.
Findings, from the report:
- The driver (Crewmember 2) was an AD Employee who was on his first off-unit fire assignment.
- The driver (Crewmember 2) had no previous experience driving an engine.
- The driver (Crewmember 2) was distracted, as water bottles were passed to him while he drove Engine 6351 on Indian Reservation Route 19.
- No manual direction exists within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to ensure employees are qualified to drive Type 6 and larger engines.
- Indian Reservation Route 19 is a relatively narrow road with no shoulder. The drop off from the paved surface to dirt is 4 to 6 inches. There is no “rumble strip” in place to alert the driver to the outside edge of the road surface.
- Engine 6351 is a Chevrolet C-5500 engine platform (Model 52) rated as 19,500 GVW that has unique road handling characteristics that differ from the average sedan or pickup.
- 1. While this vehicle does not have a CDL requirement, the weight of the vehicle (19,500 GVW) contributes to its unique road handling characteristics.
- 2. The front axle width is approximately 15” wider than standard size vehicles. The axle width results in the vehicle encountering road surface irregularities differently than a vehicle with a narrower axle width.