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Firefighter's close-up cell phone video at deadly crash leads to trouble. Clip is sent to dad of dead woman.

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In Georgia an investigation is under way following a member of the Spalding County Fire Department taking cell phone video at the scene of a deadly crash on Highway 19-41 near Griffin on July 17. That video, showing close-ups of the victim, 23-year-old Dayna Kempson-Schacht, ended up being sent to the woman’s father Jeff Kempson. The mother of two had crashed her vehicle into a tree. Here’s more from WAGA-TV in Atlanta:

“It was bad enough that we lost our daughter. And now to have to deal with something like this, it’s just beyond words,” said Kempson.

Two and a half months after her death, her father got a text message about a video, taken by cell phone. It’s 30 seconds of up close images of Schacht’s crash, including her dead body.

The audio is two first responders talking about what they see. “Hold that down there. Oh my god.”

“One asked the other to move the flash light on to her body and when he did that, you can graphically see the severe head trauma,” said Kempson.

Spalding County sheriff’s investigators confirm the video was taken by a Spalding County firefighter on his personal phone.

Fire Chief Kenneth West says the county attorney told him not to comment on this case. But the sheriff’s department says the firefighter who took the initial video, first shared with others in the fire department. Then, an unknown firefighter took the video to a bar, where he shared it with and texted it to other bar patrons. And from there, the video spread

At this point, investigators don’t believe taking the video and sharing it breaks any laws.

The county is looking into any possible policy violation.


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  • cozmosis

    What a terrible story for *several* reasons…

    1. The victim’s family should have never been subjected to seeing their loved one in that way. Ever. That’s not the lasting image a father needs of his daughter.

    2. What terrible judgment on the part of the firefighter! There is absolutely *NO* reason to take cell phone video of a crash scene with a victim present, visible & identifiable. ZERO. ZIP. NADA.

    Photographs of fatality accidents (especially extrications) often prove useful for training purposes. However, they should be taken by a ranking member of the department and guarded against distribution. Even with such “official” photos, steps should be taken to protect the dignity of the deceased at all times.

    3. The video in question is *much* different than the photo of the mangled car (with no victim present) that an EMT may share with a buddy. It’s not the same as guys snapping a few shots of each other looking like rough, dirty firemen during overhaul. It’s not the same as bona fide investigative or training photographs.

    Yet, I see some chiefs who won’t understand that… and will implement a “camera ban” as a result of this (and similar) incidents. Not only is it impractical in 2010 (every cell phone has a camera)… it’s unnecessary. Chiefs do need to remind their members about the responsibility we have to the victims and their families. And the chief in this particular department should come down swiftly on those responsible for taking the video and it’s distribution.

  • Tom B.

    What an imbecile. I hope he gets fired.

  • cozmosis

    I do remember the situation in Oklahoma City. They “thought” the images were secure. In my comment, I said that the photos must be “guarded against distribution.” I didn’t say it would be easy.

    Entirely too many white hats are still dumbfounded by anything that comes with a keyboard. The pictures in OKC were on a department server, if I remember correctly, and no one thought anyone else had access. That’s not a good plan.

    The flip side of this issue is the need for swift, public action when these goofs do occur (firefighters are human and we will make mistakes). I know I’m preaching to the choir when I tell you this “no comment” stuff is for the birds. If the chief acts like he’s not hiding anything, the public is more likely to judge the individual rather than the department.

  • dave

    Some people are gonna start with the whole HIPAA thing soon so I will say something first.

    Some people may automatically go to its “a HIPAA VIOLATION” well it technically is not. Unless the fire department has a certified QRS service or provides any ambulance service they are not covered under HIPAA. the only people covered under HIPAA are people who provide care,transport or services to a patient and recieve reimbursement. The main issue is that the person who took the video has a moral obligation to not disclose that to people. the other isssue is camera’s they are our friends and enemies when used right and incorrectly. the only solution is to develop a department policy that states specifically when cameras can be used and if that video should be kept within the department for obvious reasons.

    Camera’s document events and keep a record for training and other purposes every department should have a qualified photographer who responds and handles photo and video and said photo and video is property of the department only to be realeased if requested by law enforcement or training.

    • dave statter

      Yes, but once you take that video, and you are a government agency like the Oklahoma City Fire Department, you have another issue to deal with: FOIA requests. I will leave it to the legal folks, but I don’t believe because it is for training it necessarily keeps it out of the public’s hands.

      Just one of many things that make this a complicated issue.


  • Annie

    I just heard about this story and found this site. Nice to see there are firefighters who are upset about what happened in this case. It’s just beyond me how someone can be so emotionally stunted and disconnected to say what he did while taking the images. This guy totally lacks empathy.

    To those of you here, THANKS for all you do!! Very selfless and noble. We (the people) appreciate you!!!

  • Mike

    As a recently retired Volunteer Firefighter with 43 years experience, I find the actions of the firefighter or responder who took the video repulsive on multiple levels. The most upsetting aspect to me, besides how it has affected the victim’s family, is that it reflects negatively on firefighters/first responders in general; which in itself is another tragedy. It has been my experience that the overwhelming majority of first responders are professional and compassionate…it is why they do what they do. I sincerely hope that the Chief of the department in question will take appropriate disciplinary action on those involved and that departments across the land will reiterate the necessity of prohibiting the use of personal cell phone photo and video usage at incident scenes to ensure that this will not happen again. My heart goes out to the victims family.

  • FireGod

    This guys actions is simply stupid on so many levels. As a news photog, I fight the fight every single day for scene access AFTER the victims are gone. I get all kinds of dumbass excusses about dangers, victims identities etc, none of which apply that late in the incident. While denying me access, I see yahoo joe fireman walking around with their cellphones taking pictures and video all through the incident. I have to wonder why these guys have time during an incident to whip out the cell phone for pics but claim they are overworked because people dont volunteer anymore. Seems to me if you have enough time to stand around and bs with your homies and take he-man fire pictures, then possibly you have enough people to do the job. Lets not even get into the constitutional rights violations going on when this happens. I hope that there is a HUGE lawsuit involving this FF and his department over this. Someone needs to make sure the lesson sticks. We, as firefighters tend to forget these things to quickly and go back to business as usual.

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  • FireGod

    I have, on several occasions, been on scene videotaping at fires and seen firefighters in active fire fights, use their cellphone cameras. On one fire I saw the initial attack line stop in mid-stride on the way to the front door, while one of the guys on the line, took out his cell phone to take a picture. Oh boy, the field day I could have on youtube with the stupid things Ive videotaped over the years.

  • ex ff

    Two things that should be done, first is to fire the one in question and second give the family this happened to millions of dollars.


    He should be ashamed. There is nothing “cool” about video taping a dead body and showing it around. What on earth was he thinking, and what was so stunningly amazing about severe head trauma? The person who did it should be fired, his company would be crazy not to.

    I agree with all of you who say there should be a photographer who is a ranking member to take pictures for TRAINING, and they should be very well guarded,if any patient faces are shown, the patient or patient’s Power of Attorney needs to sign a waiver of liability. If there is someone who is dead, or for some reason cannot sign release, then the picture(s) need to be edited to protect identity.

    Incredible. Things like this are what give EMS/FD/LE a bad name,and causes distrust in the people we serve.

  • uk-fb-buff

    1st. This is not a new issue as Dave Statter mentioned the Oklahoma City FD video.

    2nd. Where is the “common sense” (what if it were a relative of yours) that one is supposed to possess when it comes to attending a fatal accident or fire?

  • G. Kidd

    A firefighter my self i thank that was very uncalled for and i thank he needs to be fired and charges placed agist him and any other firefighters who assisited him in sending it. I also belive that violates the hipaa act.

  • moutzie

    I think that even if it is for “training purposes” the family should have to sign a disclosure agreement or something! I mean, I am not even allowed to take pictures of the kids in preschool without parental consent!

  • Jeffrey Zorn

    in response to cozmosis saying “There is absolutely *NO* reason to take cell phone video of a crash scene with a victim present, visible & identifiable. ZERO. ZIP. NADA” I disagree I could see a medic taking pictures only and I say only for showing ER Doctors the postion of ther victim how the car looked ect. My fire dept recently compleated a Hipa course with the towns ambulance and one of the medics mentioned this exact reason. she stated this as its helpful to the doctors to see all this to help them determine what poss injuries the victim could poss have. But she stated that if this is done as soon as the doctors see the picture that the must be deleted from the device they were taken with.

  • Bernard

    We must remember, the taking of photographs is not illegal. The video which was taken only depicted what was in plain view for anyone to see. The firefighter here, had the same right as any news photographer or any bystander to photograph that which was in plain view. This is reality recorded brother! Firefighters risk their lives everyday to save lives in emergency situations. Why are people singling out our patriotic first responders for criticism? When their houses were burning down or when 911 happened, who answered the call to duty? THE AMERICAN FIREFIGHTER!

  • alabama firefighter

    I am afirefighter from alabama there is no excuse fore what he did it goes against everything we are taught if he had time to take pictures then he wasnt doing his job in my opinion he should be fired or do the right thing and quit the fire service doesnt need people like that