Today’s (Tuesday incident in Hall County, Georgia is the latest failure of a Sutphen tower ladder and has prompted the company to instruct fire departments to remove certain rigs from service immediately (see notice below).
Previously, two other ladder failures involving the company’s tower ladders received significant news coverage. On June 26, three firefighters were hurt in Erie County, Pennsylvania after the ladder dropped while they were working on a radio tower. Within a week, Sutphen told the Belle Valley Fire Department that cables were improperly installed during a rebuild of its rig.
On August 15, 2012, five people were hurt when cables snapped as Arizona’s Green Valley Fire Department demonstrated its tower ladder to some citizens. There have been some settlements in that case within the last month.
In February of 2013 the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued a report about the Green Valley Fire Department incident. It cited a number of factors. Click here for a news report on the investigation.
According to the Green Valley News & Sun, DPS Detective Terry Johnson reported there had been other Sutphen ladder failures the company attributed to service and maintenance problems:
Johnson said that other Sutphen trucks have had ladder failures in Bluffton, S.C. (four); Chillicothe, Ohio; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and Sedona (two). However, Sutphen’s (Director of Service, T. Robert) Meyer said Friday that all of the other cases “were attributed to user service and maintenance issues.” The ladder is designed with two pulleys so that one could back up the other and Meyer said none of the other cases involved two pulleys seizing in place at the same time, as occurred in Green Valley.
RE: Sutphen Voluntarily Removing 5-Section Aerial Devices From Service
Sutphen Corporation has announced that the Company is instructing customers to remove all SPH 100, SP 110, SPI 112, and SAI 110 Aerial devices from service, until further notice, effective immediately.
The Company states that customers are instructed to use the affected apparatus in the capacity of an engine or support vehicle only. The Company will stay in close contact with its customers to report details and when the units may be place back in service.
“At this time, our priority is the safety of our firefighters,” says Drew Sutphen, President of the Company. “In light of the recent incidents, we recognize there is an immediate need to take precautionary action. I would rather take every precaution necessary than to put firefighters at risk.”
The Company states that it will be contacting customers with the affected units personally to inform them of the events that have occurred and the steps that are being taken to get the units back in to service in a timely manner.
“We feel the need to personally assure our customers that we are working to investigate and correct the situation,” Drew continues.
Sutphen Corporation is an Ohio based privately held, family owned business that manufactures custom built emergency response vehicles. The company’s headquarters are located in suburban Dublin, Ohio northwest of Columbus.
(Thanks to reader Jack Armstrong for the alert on this story.)
Three Hall County firefighters are being transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center after a ladder truck suffered mechanical failure at a training center Tuesday afternoon.
Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said one firefighter has already been transferred to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, while the two other firefighters are being extricated from the bucket. Cagle could not say what caused the malfunction with the ladder at this time.
The Gainesville/Hall County Joint Fire Training Facility is off Allen Creek Road.
“They were extended up in the ladder truck, the bucket truck,” Cagle explained. “While they were in the bucket some type of mechanical failure happened and the ladder pancaked down onto itself; it free-fell about twenty feet before it stopped itself.”