Firefighter faces DUI charge for fire truck accident during fatal house fire
ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP - State police in Belle Vernon claim a firefighter was found to be intoxicated after he wrecked a pumper truck while en route to a fire.
John Michael Kimball, 36, of 513 Lebanon School Road, Belle Vernon, faces a criminal charge of driving under the influence. He also faces summary counts of careless driving and driving on roadways laned for traffic.
Kimball, who has since been expelled from the Rostraver Central Volunteer Fire Co., was on his way to a house fire Sept. 24 in South Huntingdon Township.
According to court documents, Kimball, rounding a curve on state Route 3029 in South Huntingdon, strayed off the road and hit a concrete wall with the right side of the truck. Rostraver Assistant Chief Vince Campbell said the accident caused some cosmetic damage and forced the truck's water pump out of place.
Two other firefighters were on board. One was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released.
The truck and Kimball were driven back to the station, and Campbell left the fire to attend to the accident. Once at the station, and after talking with Kimball, he called the police.
Police said they noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Kimball and that his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and his speech was slurred.
Kimball was taken to a Monongahela Valley Hospital for a blood test, which revealed he had a 0.12 percent blood-alcohol content. In Pennsylvania, a driver is considered to be legally drunk with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent
Kimball declined to comment, except to say that he has "mixed emotions" about the accident and that he is confident the DUI charge "will be beat."
The fire gutted the house and killed the man who lived there, 53-year-old Nicholas Reed Szary, of 1049 Barren Run Road. His dog, a black Labrador retriever, also died. A state police fire marshal ruled that the fire was accidental, caused by unattended food cooking on the stove.
Szary died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:25 p.m.
Several fire departments were called, including Rostraver. However, Westmoreland County 911 dispatchers had asked only for its ladder truck, which arrived long before Campbell's accident. As a result, Kimball didn't have to drive over with the pumper, Campbell said.
Nonetheless, Kimball, who Campbell said wasn't drinking at the station and was permitted to drive the truck, showed up at the station and went out to see if the others needed help.
He said that given that the township covers a wide geographic area, Rostraver firefighters carry their gear with them and usually report directly to fires and traffic accidents. So, generally, there's nobody at the station to direct traffic, Campbell said.
"It's something we couldn't prevent," said Campbell, who added that Kimball meant well but used poor judgment.
Kimball has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Dec. 6 before District J. Bruce King, of Scottdale.
Responding Firefighter Charged with DUI
BELLE VERNON, PA-November 9, 2004 — A Westmoreland County volunteer firefighter is charged with driving drunk on his way to a fatal house fire – and crashing a pumper truck.
Thirty-six-year-old Michael Kimball of Belle Vernon has been kicked out of the Rostraver Central Volunteer Fire Company since the September 24th crash.
State police say Kimball was legally drunk when they arrived shortly after the crash.
Kimball says he'll beat the DUI charge in court. Although a man died in the fire, authorities say Kimball's wreck wasn't a factor.
The truck he was driving wasn't even summoned to the scene by dispatchers. Instead, authorities say Kimball simply showed up at the station and decided to drive an extra truck to the scene to help out.
He faces a preliminary hearing December Sixth.