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Conclusions on Fire Vehicle Accident 20 May 2004

Following the incident on Sunday 4th April 2004, when a Fire vehicle overturned during a training exercise and blocked the main runway, the internal inquiry has now been concluded.

It was found that there was no mechanical defect with the vehicle, which was following the two faster fire appliances on a routine “timed response” training exercise. The first two vehicles negotiated the bends in the taxiway without problem, but the driver of the third vehicle apparently lost control, skidded, and overturned. Fortunately without injury to the driver who was the sole occupant. All of the Airport Fire Service personnel hold HGV driving qualifications and have received additional general and vehicle specific training.

The accident vehicle was bought new over 13 years ago, as a “cross country” vehicle designed to attend aircraft accidents in farmland areas outside of the airfield boundary. This requirement led to the design being relatively narrow in width, with high ground clearance, and a relatively high centre of gravity for the foam tank and fire fighting equipment. The vehicle was subjected to static tilt tests before delivery and was cleared to angles up to 30 degrees.

The vehicle has been operated safely on the Airport throughout its life, apart from one tragic accident involving a fatal collision with another Airport vehicle. The design of the fire vehicle was not a factor in that accident.

In view of the circumstances of the accident on the 4th April 2004, the matter has now been dealt with in a Section level hearing between the Section Manager and the fireman concerned, who has since been restored to full duties with re-training in driving techniques. This additional training will be extended to all fire personnel. No changes are planned to essential emergency training regimes, which are intended to simulate actual incidents as far as is practical.

The fire vehicle was due to be withdrawn from service and sold this year or next. However it has now been classed as an insurance write-off, although the damage is largely confined to the cab and superstructure.

The Airport Fire Service has three “major foam tenders”, any two of which can maintain the required fire category for larger aircraft operations. The third vehicle is effectively a “maintenance and unserviceability spare”, and the Airport has hired-in a replacement vehicle from a manufacturer pending a permanent replacement.

The Island’s Health and Safety Executive have also been carrying out their own investigation into the accident, and provided the following statement:

"The Health and Safety at Work Inspectorate of the Department of Local Government and the Environment has considered this internal review as part of its investigation into the accident. The Inspectorate accepts that rollover of the vehicle was primarily the result of the speed of the vehicle and its rate of turn, both of these being key factors in the safe operation of vehicles of this type and both being factors within the control of the vehicle driver. The Inspectorate has endorsed the proposed improvements and will continue to work with the Airport Fire Service to ensure that risks posed by its work are effectively and appropriately controlled."

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