By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – The fire department’s ladder truck, which was shielding firefighters extinguishing a car fire on I-94, was struck by a car whose driver fell asleep, after striking another car as well.
The crash, which occurred at 12:29 a.m. July 5, on eastbound I-94 near Pelham, did not cause any serious injuries, although the driver of the car struck by the sleeping driver was transported to Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn.
The ladder truck, which will be out of commission for at least six months, sustained $100,000 in damage.
The two firefighters who were in the ladder truck when it was struck were unharmed.
The man who fell asleep, who was driving an Audi, said he had been boating and wakeboarding most of the day, and was tired.
Field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test confirmed that alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
The driver of the Lincoln, which was struck from behind by the Audi, said she saw the other vehicle in her rearview mirror as it approached her car from behind, at a high rate of speed, first striking her vehicle, then striking the fire truck.
City Manager Mark Kibby said at the July 14 City Council meeting that he always dreads getting texts from city officials in the middle of the night.
“When you get a text message at 1:20 a.m. that a fire truck has been hit on the freeway, you kind of wake up really quick,” he said. “Fortunately, no one was hurt.”
Kibby said that was the second of three recent incidents in the Downriver area, and one of four in the region, in which drivers have crashed into emergency vehicles.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “Slow down and get over – it’s the law – and pay attention.”
Kibby said Fire Chief Doug LaFond said if the ladder truck had not been shielding the four firefighters, they could have been killed.
Kibby said having the ladder truck out of commission could have an impact on any major structural fires, but fortunately there are other ladder trucks available in the neighboring cities of Southgate, Taylor and Wyandotte, as well as in Dearborn, Melvindale and Dearborn Heights.
“We are very fortunate that there are other apparatuses in the area,” he said. “But it just makes it a little bit longer of a response.”
City Councilwoman Pam Sych asked if an impact attenuator or a crash cushion, designed to reduce the impact of collisions, would be something the department should consider in the future.
Kibby said it has come up in discussion, but given the department’s size and staffing, he said LaFond did not think it would be a good fit for the Fire Department.