The Hartford Fire Department released a final Board of Inquiry report into a fire that claimed the life of a firefighter.
Firefighter Kevin Bell died battling a blaze on Blue Hills Avenue last October.
The medical examiner’s office said Bell died from running out of air. His death was ruled accidental.
Firefighters Jason Martinez, Colin McWeeny and Kevin Burke were hurt during the same fire.
Officials said the fire was in a bathroom in the building. Gas built up and became pressurized. Firefighters had no way to vent it.
During a news conference at Hartford Public Safety Complex on High Street on Friday afternoon, authorities said everyone involved that night was interviewed for this report
The mayday calls are clear now, but in the middle of the chaos, Hartford’s interim assistant fire chief Scott Brady said they went unheard by the firefighters inside.
“This was very muffled,” Brady said. “It was scratchy transmission and it was not acknowledged.
None of the fire department's hoses could touch the fire, according to the department’s 38-page board of inquiry review.
In the process of being evacuated, Bell became tangled in a piece of wrought iron furniture and was unable to get out.
The report states Bell lost contact with his partner at that same time, a lot of attention was directed to firefighter Martinez who, 16 seconds earlier, tumbled out of a second floor window. In the mass confusion, he was hit in the face with a stream of water and lost consciousness.
With all that going on, Brady said the mayday call was lost in the noise.
“It wasn't until significantly on in that process that firefighter Bell was not accounted for,” Brady said.
It would be 8 minutes and 3 seconds after the mayday went out before a rescue team would look for Bell.
His death shed light on potential equipment problems within the Hartford Fire Department. A state investigation revealed serious safety violations.
They told Eyewitness News this past spring that many issues, including a lack of communication, have been resolved.
In all, the board, made up of seven current fire department members, came up with 22 conclusions. It highlights failures in training, command, use of technology and even the art of fighting fires.
“It was the worst possible scenario and the worst possible time. All these things, ultimately had some part in what happened,” Brady said.
Officials said that should there be a call for mayday, it goes to the appropriate places. They said when Bell's mayday went out, there was a communication mix up that caused a lieutenant to assume Bell had exited the building successfully.
Since Bell's death, crews have responded to 122 calls and two mayday situations. All are hoping Bell's death won't be in vain and the findings here will be used to make a positive change.
“As a department, we need to know what happened, so we can make the correct changes and make the work environment safer,” Brady said.
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