Fallen firefighter's family files wrongful death lawsuit against - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Fallen firefighter's family files wrongful death lawsuit against Hartford

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Wayatte Statham-Bell discusses a wrongful death suit filed against the city of Hartford following the death of firefighter Kevin Bell. (WFSB photo) Wayatte Statham-Bell discusses a wrongful death suit filed against the city of Hartford following the death of firefighter Kevin Bell. (WFSB photo)
Firefighter Kevin Bell. (Mayor's office photo) Firefighter Kevin Bell. (Mayor's office photo)

The estate of a fallen Hartford firefighter has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

Firefighter Kevin Bell, 48, was killed battling a blaze on Blue Hills Avenue on Oct. 7, 2014.

Kevin Bell's family members held a news conference with attorney Paul Levin on Thursday to discuss the suit, which was filed at superior court in Hartford.

The defendants are the city of Hartford, Fire Chief Carlos Huertas, Deputy Fire Chief James McLoughlin, and Lt. John Moree, the person Bell was teamed with that night.

The lawsuit singles Moree out, stating that weeks before, he left Bell behind at a fire, and a "personal animus" grew between them.

"Kevin should be with us, at home," said Wayatte Statham-Bell, Kevin Bell's widow. "It's not right, I need answers."

To read Wayatte Staham-Bell's full statement, click here

Statham Bell said she doesn't understand why her husband was left alone.

"He always said to me, 'it's two in, two out.' How could he be alone," she said.

Those grievances were filed in a lawsuit.

Shawn Bell, Sr., Kevin Bell's brother, said it took 8 minutes and 3 seconds for a scene commander to send a rescue team. He said it took just 30 seconds to locate him.

"For eight minutes and three seconds, my brother, Kevin Bell, was left behind," Shawn Bell said in a statement. "He was equipped with a poorly functioning air tank and abandoned by his partner, Lt. John Moree, whose muffled mayday went unanswered or ignored."

Shawn Bell argues that his brother was essentially left to die.

"The loss, for us, is unbearable," he said.

To read Shawn Bell's full statement, click here.

Fire investigators said they found multiple mistakes that contributed to Kevin Bell's death. 

The medical examiner ruled that he died of asphyxia from lack of breathing gas.

Officials said Kevin Bell's death drew attention to problems within the fire department, especially with air tanks not being refilled after firefighters came back from calls.

While the complaints about the equipment have been known, the family said the six-year veteran was defamed after his death.

The lawsuit said there were rumors that Bell had cocaine in his system and had a heart attack.

The family said the department did nothing to squash those rumors, but instead let them go in an attempt to take the focus off of their "embarrassing failures."

In fact, days before the deadly fire, Lt. John Nolan wrote to the Hartford fire chief detailing problems in the fire house. Those problems allegedly included an apparatus check and house work not being completed.

Firefighters said they knocked down the fire on Blue Hills Avenue after only 30 minutes. Still, it was long enough to be deadly for Kevin Bell.

He also left behind a daughter.

The city declined to comment on the lawsuit because officials didn't get a chance to go through it all, but said in a statement "We're talking about the tragic death of one of our own firefighters; a member of the Hartford community who grew up here and many people knew and loved. Our hearts go out to Kevin's family who has suffered an enormous loss."

To read the full report, click here

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