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Firefighter’s suit over 2010 tanker wreck describes ‘party atmosphere’ at PA’s North Bangor VFC. Underage assistant chief was charged with drunken driving after crash.

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A lawsuit filed by an injured firefighter claims that Pennsylvania’s North Bangor VFC in Upper Mount Bethel Township (Northampton County) allowed a “party atmosphere” where firefighters drink and drive apparatus. Tom Shortell with The Express-Times reports that 41-year-old Stuart Mintz and his wife are suing former assistant chief Zachary Romano, the department and others after Mintz was injured when the tanker Romano was driving overturned while they were returning from a parade on July 10, 2010.

Tom Shortell, The Express-Times:

On the way to the parade, Romano stopped for a 30-pack of Coors Light in Stockertown, according to the suit. As Romano drove the truck through the streets of Tatamy, Mintz said he saw Romano continue to drink beer, the suit claims. When the truck was towed away, empty beer cans were found inside, according to police.

Romano, Mintz’s superior at the company, was negligent in drunkenly driving the fire truck and for assigning Mintz to ride with him, the suit claims. The suit also claims Fire Chief Frederick Farleigh, Company President Christopher Louszko, former Upper Mount Bethel Township Supervisor Ed Nelson, the company and the township are responsible. All had some supervisory role over Romano and allowed alcohol abuse to become a fact of life at the fire station, the suit says.

Reporter Shortell says he was unable to reach any of the people mentioned in the lawsuit for comment.

The paper says that Romano, who was 20-year-old at the time, was charged with drunken driving after the crash but that records don’t indicate how the charges were resolved in court.

More from Lee Righi at WFMZ.com:

Mintz claims in his suit that Romano, who was 20 at the time, had been drinking throughout the day — first at the North Bangor Fire Co. station at 301 Lake Minsi Drive, then while he was driving the truck in the parade and again at a celebration at the Tatamy Fire Hall after the parade.

Mintz says in his suit that they (fire and township officials) all knew Romano “had a history of heavy drinking and drinking and driving,” adding they were, or should have been, responsible for  policies governing the fire company and screening applicants.

He also says the fire company created a “party atmosphere”; encouraged members to drink, and allowed them to operate fire vehicles with open containers of alcohol.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Blue

    Hoisting the WTF flag here, a 30 pack in the Tanker for a freakin’ parade? If they’re suffering that bad for leadership then shut ‘um down!

  • Pingback: Pennsylvania: drunken firefighters driving firetrucks and overturned tanker finds DWI charges and now lawsuits against fire officials | DWI Hit Parade!()

  • north chief

    Im, confused, you ride with a guy while he’s drinking and you get hurt and you hold no responsibility for your actions? Where has common sense gone?

  • clay

    Agree 100% with north chief, well said.

  • Bob

    The earlier articles from the papers say Mintz bought the beer since Ramano was under age.

  • mark

    A 20 YO assistant chief?

    I’m sure the injured party didn’t have any alcohol in his system, either, right?

    And what north chief said.

    Why didn’t this jackwagon call the cops himself?

  • Former Chief

    Ah yes, the Volunteer Fire Service. We are frequently our own worst enemies. Can someone tell me how a 20 year old can have enough experience to be a Chief Officer? Even if he joined as a Junior, how exactly did he rise through the ranks? Or am I letting my common sense get in the way again.

  • Chief 62

    Former Chief, the simple and only answer is its not possible. I don’t care how mature a 20 year old is you cannot gleam enough experience, evolution and education in the 17-20 year span. Its truly shameful that this young lad was even in a position of authority and begs the question how really desperate was this service to actually have members of this age in charge. To the other blogger who stated what about ownership of the aggrieved to have control over himself I agree wholeheartily, guess it was okay while the fun and shenanigans were going on, no responsibility on his part at all. All around events like this color all of us both career, part-time and volunteer and once more bring down the profession of firefighting. Yes, even though the IAFF thinks only their union members are “professionals”, this is far from the truth, in the end they makeup so very little in the actual numbers of firefighters across North America and we have seen lots of embarassing non professional conduct from therein as well, from one who has been on both sides.

    In the end its the Council of the service’s jurisdiction’s responsibility to know what the heck is going on with thir providers. Its almost 2013, the good ol boys wyatt earp scenario is long over and every one of these types events has an acummulated effect on the rest of us. Shame on the “consequence to your actions” clause when it comes into play isn’t it. Stay Safe-Be Smart-Live Well-Retire Happy.

    • Former Chief

      Chief, you are spot on. I too have been on both the volunteer and career side and agree with you whole heartedly. Especially the point you made about the desperation of the Volunteer Fire Service. In my experience, many Volunteer FD’s are so desperate for membership that their standards for members and officers have lowered dramatically. And in some cases, they need only to consolidate with a neighboring jurisdiction and make the best use of the available, qualified volunteers. Sadly, that doesn’t occur anywhere near as frequently as it should.

  • D Schaefer

    What a Joke I agree shut the whole department down.

  • CHAOS

    Sure seems to be more to the story than just what’s in the lawsuit. Great batch of ingredients though:
    20 y/o ass chief
    30 pack on the way to the parade
    supposedly responsible adult riding shotgun (and not getting off) who seems to not have had a problem with the drinking until after the crash, and he is reportedly the guy who bought the beer for the underage driver/chief
    Do you get to be a 20 y/o chief officer by just popping for a 30 pack for the guys every chance you get??

  • 8truck

    I’m becoming really annoyed by the FD’s in PA. There is a lack of professionalism from a lot of the departments in this state. We have a few in my county. They don’t seem to grab the concept that the fire service is no longer a hobby or a boys club. It’s serious business whether you’re volly or paid on a call or in the fire house. I really hope that the PA fire servie gets overhauled in the next decade.

  • John W

    When your assistant chief is not old enough to drink you have some real serious issues from the start.

  • E1 LT

    Wow, a 20 year old A Chief. With nearly twenty years in the career fire service and seven as an LT I don’t always feel like I have the experience needed for a Captain’s slot.
    When I see stories like this I am left scratching my head. It would never occur to me to drink at, or before coming to, the firehouse.
    This whole incident speaks to a broad failure in leadership from top to bottom.