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Guilty plea: Vermont chief admits throwing flashlight at vehicle.

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See’s previous coverage of this story

In July we told you about a June incident reported in the Bennington Banner where Bennington Rural Fire Department (VT) Chief Joseph Hayes faced criminal charges after being accused of throwing a flashlight at a car he thought was going to hit him while the chief was checking out arcing wires along a road. Chief Hayes entered a guilty plea yesterday to disorderly conduct, one of two charges he faced after tossing the flashlight at Fred Grant’s vehicle in an effort to get him to slow down.

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The state dropped the mischief charge and Hayes agreed that he would go before a reparative board with the next four months. If he completes the board’s instructions his case will be sealed and not show up on his record, said his attorney William D. Wright, of Bennington.

Wright said in an interview that his client feared he would be hit by Grant’s vehicle and while jumping out of the way Hayes underhand tossed the flashlight which hit Grant’s car. He said it was an instinctive action and there was no intent to hit or damage Grant’s vehicle.

According to Wright, Hayes agreed to the plea agreement because he wished the case to be over with and felt the reparative board was acceptable, rather than take the matter to trial. “This is the ugly part of our system,” Wright said. “He’s thought about a trial and the system has a way of wearing people down.”

As for the driver, Fred Grant had told police that he did not notice Chief Hayes, who was not wearing a reflective vest when he crossed the road to look at the number on a utility pole. Grant said he was going between 15 and 20 mph and that rain and oncoming headlights blocked his view of Hayes.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Jay911

    Disappointing, IMO. I’d like to know if there was a lit emergency vehicle nearby. Here, vehicles have to slow to 60 km/h (40 mph) in the lane adjacent to an emergency vehicle. That’s still too fast, very often.

    Chief probably should have had a vest on. I would also want to know if he had turnout gear on. If he did, IMO the vest is just overkill, as there’s plenty of reflexite on the average turnout coat.

    It’s time we start making the public aware that driving through a scene is just plain not OK, and by that I mean significant fines and penalties. I doubt I would have done anything differently than the chief in this story – though after reading this I might think twice about throwing something. I guess the best way to make sure people know it’s a scene is that we have our lights on and all the fancy reflective vests etc.

    (By the way, one of the first people to get a ticket after the 60 km/h law was enacted here paid over $600 in fines passing a police car doing a traffic stop on the highway where the speed is posted at 110 km/h. Her excuse: “I didn’t know a police car is considered an emergency vehicle!” Clearly public education is needed to get everyone to slow the hell down and respect us standing out on the road.)

  • RJ(in florida)

    Having been in a similar situation i’m suprised why nobody asked why the car was traveling so close and quick near an emergency scene? “being starteled and dropping a flashlight that goes at a car? i know its happened before

    something else is up here

  • Shhh…

    Remember when handlights and helmets would “fall” from the backstep onto the cars tailgating.

    • (RJ) in florida

      LOL yes i do. I’ll go to time out now…………………

  • Anonymous

    I probably would have done the same thing. It is unfortunate that this Chief has to plead guilty when he honestly thought the car was going to strike him.

    Just another reason to block the whole lane or multiple lanes.

    Glad you are safe Chief.

  • Fire21

    Many years ago (over 40) one of our firefighters struck a vehicle windshield with a shovel after that driver ran over a fire hose. In court the judge commented to the defendant, “The fireman told you to stop”. Charges were dropped.

    In some ways the “good old days” were still pretty good…..

    • Fire21

      Sorry, I meant to say the driver paid a fine…I don’t know how much it cost him.

  • Tree

    Good thing nothing came of me bouncing a lit flare off a windshield once as a driver passed an accident scene too fast…

    He stopped – about 100 feet past that point, as the roads were very slick…

  • John W

    I did not hear anything that required an arrest of any kind


    Though labeled a rural area, Bennington isn’t a tiny town sitting on Main Street and that there’s more traffic flowing through then one might think, so I’d side with the Chief and that he probably did indeed throw his flashlight as an instinctive reaction. We see it far to often on here and on the news, where policeman, troopers to EMT’s and fireman getting injured or killed because of driver distraction or plain ignorance…..Even when you take all precautions, there’s that one who thinks they’re special and will try to go around the scene and perform an ignorant act…


    Strange what passes for “justice” in some parts of this country.

  • Anonymous

    About 20 years ago I was ordered to block off a busy residential street due to a crash. I had the brush truck sideways in the road and several cones laid out. I had my gear on, all of it, and my maglight with an orange cone on it. One vehicle decided to drive around my cones so I ran at the car and slammed my flashlight on his hood. He stopped but said that he didn’t know how else to get where he was going. Later at the station he wanted to complain to the chief. I could see in the better light at the station I made a significant dent in his fender and hood near the windshield. The chief backed me up, the police chief backed me up, and the mayor also backed me saying he had no business driving around traffic cones.

    That would be a different story today apparently.

  • Gary Palmer

    I remember on more than one occasion a motorist who felt inconvenienced by fire apparatus on a working incident blocking their route deciding to drive around the apparatus and over the hose lines. It is a mechanical marvel to watch the 3″ hose wrap around an automobile axle and get wedged in the wheel well. Funny how their desire to ignore our warnings become become a desire to free their vehicle.

  • monkey chief

    If the driver was blinded by headlights a reflective vest wouldn’t have made a difference. The only thing the reflective vest requirement has achieved is increasing the profits of supply companies. What if it had been a pedestrian struck and killed. Oopsie their fault they didnt have a reflective vest on.