Probe of death from heat begins

Volunteer firefighter training to work full time in Frederick County

Carroll County

July 11, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

An investigation into the heat-related death of a volunteer firefighter from Carroll County who collapsed while training to become a full-time Frederick County firefighter began yesterday behind closed doors.

A board of inquiry made up of fire officials from three counties held its first meeting yesterday at the Frederick County fire operations center to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrew James Waybright, who died last week in his third day of training. The board developed a plan for its investigation and began gathering information, said its chairman, Deputy Chief Walter F. Murray, director of Frederick County Fire/EMS Operations.

Murray refused to provide other details of the closed meeting or speculate how long the inquiry might take, but he said a board "mission statement" would be released today.

"We want to do a thorough job and not to rush through anything," he said after yesterday's session. Murray would not say where or when the panel would next meet.

Black bunting draped the sign outside the county's Department of Fire and Rescue building near the operations center.

Waybright, 23, lived in Gettysburg and had worked as a paid emergency medical technician for Taneytown Volunteer Fire Department and as a volunteer for the fire company in Harney. He was hired May 4 by Frederick County as an on-call firefighter, before beginning as a full-time employee July 1, which also marked the beginning of a 20-week recruit school that included physical training every morning, Frederick County authorities said.

Waybright began work at 7 a.m. July 3, with physical training with 12 other recruits, Frederick officials said. He had completed a jog and calisthenics and was on a return jog to the county's public safety training facility when he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.

Waybright was pronounced dead at 9:21 a.m. at Frederick Memorial Hospital. The state medical examiner's office determined that heat exposure was the cause of his death. The temperature was 84 degrees and the heat index was 96 degrees when Waybright collapsed, according to Frederick County authorities.

Keith Waybright, a cousin of Andrew Waybright and a member of the Harney volunteer fire company, said yesterday, "Frederick County Fire and Rescue instructors acted irresponsibly and without common sense. We're not laying responsibility on anyone at this time, but waiting for the board to release its findings.

"We're angry," he added. "And we hope that this tragedy won't happen again."

In addition to Murray, the panel includes the acting assistant chief of the Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services; a representative of the Career Fire Fighter Association of Frederick County, Local 3666 of the International Association Firefighters; the president of Middletown Volunteer Fire Company in Frederick County; an officer of the Office of Emergency and Disaster Management of the Frederick County Emergency Services Division; a battalion chief in the training division of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services; and the director of field operations for the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute.

Sun staff writer Ellie Baublitz contributed to this article.

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