The video above is from the original coverage by the Belleville News-Democrat in December 2016.
Looking for a quality used fire truck? Selling one? Visit our sponsor Command Fire Apparatus
A little more than three years ago, 33-year-old Jason Eagan was voted into the Sandoval Fire Department in Illinois under the department’s cadet guidelines. Those rules did not allow Eagan to enter burning buildings and included other operational limitations. The reason for this is Eagan has Down syndrome. Eagan’s membership in the department made news in 2016. The nice feature story in the Belleville News-Democrat was about a young man, despite his limitations, was doing something he loved. It was also about a fire department, despite initial concerns of some of its members, was able to make this work and have Eagan as a productive member.
Now, the same paper has a new story. Eagan’s sister Kristin Sian told reporter Kavahn Mansouri that Jason quit the Sandoval Fire Department because of bullying. The story came a day after Sian wrote about the issue on her Facebook page (see below).
For some reason, rather than address these claims head on, the fire department did not respond to the reporter’s requests for comment. So, it’s not known whether the department disputes these claims or acknowledges there has been a problem that’s being handled. The lack of response leaves open a lot of questions.
“It has come to my knowledge he quit a few months back due to harassment from a fellow fireman,” Sian wrote in social media. “It disappoints and angers me that this was allowed and that a grown man bullied a fellow fireman simply because he’s different.”
Sian said Friday her brother’s work at the department had always been a divisive topic among the other firefighters. She said some firefighters saw him as a brother, while others felt he shouldn’t be working with them.
Jason’s aunt, Mary Kay Eagan-Robbins, said the harassment started last year when other firefighters started taunting him and calling him a “retard.” She said someone deleted Eagan from the paging system that alerts firefighters to emergency calls.
“It went good for two (or) three years and then, all of the sudden, someone at the fire department started harassing Jason and picking on him and bullying him.”