TV stations in DC went back for more yesterday on the fire truck ride heard ’round the world. I saw the story of the DUI arrest of a volunteer firefighter from Hamilton, Virginia featured on network newscasts and even in a London tabloid (even though they did use an FDNY rig to illustrate the story). Unfortunately it is another good example of how the Internet quickly spreads the bad news far and wide. I can think of cases of more outrageous behavior in previous generations that resulted in death or serious injury that didn’t get anywhere near the attention this story did.
The firefighter’s mug shot is now forever on the web and will be very easy to find. That’s not good news for his future. While I try to avoid preaching on the blog, this may be a good lesson for firefighters who have been engaged in similar behavior. Besides all of the physically harmful things that could have come from this incident, the instant destruction of your reputation as it travels the Internet at the speed of light should really give you pause (and, of course, there is the reputation of the fire department).
The stories yesterday focused mostly on the passengers aboard the retired fire engine at the time the deputy sheriff pulled it over. All are or were volunteer firefighters who the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said had been drinking. Of particularly interest, for obvious reasons, were the off-duty Leesburg police officer and the 19-year-old firefighter.
“Everybody in the vehicle had been drinking,” said (Investigator Vincent) DiBenedetto, saying they were all intoxicated. The passengers were allowed to leave with someone sober and not charged.
“It’s definitely one of the most serious breaches we have. One thing we are expected to do is follow the laws we’re enforcing,” said DiBenedetto.
Leesburg police suspended the officer, an officer sworn to uphold the law and presumably keep drunk drivers off the road.
“Driving drunk in a little Toyota… that’s a dangerous thing,” DiBenedetto said. “When you take a 30 foot long fire truck going 67 miles per hour on what is basically a country road it’s a lot more serious.”
As if the mix of alcohol, firefighters and police wasn’t bad enough. The one woman among the volunteer firefighters inside the truck, is only 19 years old and in the company of a police officer who had to know she wasn’t old enough to legally drink.
“Sounds like it was a pretty dumb thing to do,” said Bill Donohue, a Hamilton resident.
Investigators said Swanson’s recorded blood alcohol content was 0.08 after the deputy caught up with him.
ABC7 tried to contact Swanson for comment at his home, located next to the old fire station where the older model pumper is stored. ABC7 received no response.