Firehouse.Com - In The Line of Duty (4/30/00) Chicago Firefighter Killed, Many Injured in Crash

 Chicago Fire Lieutenant Killed; Firefighter Critical and 12 Others Injured in Collision

Funeral, Visitation Information Now Added Below

Firehouse.Com Senior Editor

A veteran Chicago Fire Lieutenant was killed and a second firefighter listed in critical condition when a ladder truck responding to a false alarm on Saturday, Apr. 29 was broadsided by a truck that failed to yield the right-of-way at a four-way stop intersection, officials said. Twelve other people were injured, including three firefighters.

Fire Lieutenant L. C. Merrell

Fire Lieutenant L. C. Merrell and Firefighter Rodney Sevier was ejected from their unit when it was broadsided by a landscape truck in an intersection, officials said.

Merrell, the unit's officer, was pronounced dead a short time after being transported to Christ Hospital. Sevier was listed in fair condition Monday at the same hospital with multiple injuries, police said.

A third firefighter was released from an area hospital Sunday and the two others were treated and released with minor injuries on Saturday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

At least nine civilians were injured, none seriously.

Merrell, 43, was an 18-year veteran who is survived by his wife and four children. Their ages were not immediately available early Sunday. He

According to officials, Truck Company 24 was returning from a response when it was dispatched on an automatic alarm call shortly before Noon on the city's South Side.

The unit had slowed down as it approached a four-way stop at the intersection of 107th and Throop Streets. The landscape truck went through a stop sign, and broadsided the responding unit on the front passenger side.

"There's no criminal negligence, it's just a terrible accident," Sgt. Matthew Brown of the Chicago Police Department's Major Accident Investigation Unit told Firehouse.Com News early Sunday.

The driver of the landscape truck, 56-year-old Isac Zepeda, was issued three traffic citations, including disobeying a stop sign, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and failure to properly wear a seat belt. More serious charges would not be filed in connection with Merrell's death, Brown said. Six people were traveling in the pickup truck, reports said.

A third vehicle was also involved in the crash. Witnesses in that vehicle told the Chicago Sun-Times that the pickup truck ignored the stop sign.

Officials said they did not know if the firefighters had been wearing the seat belts, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. City regulations require that emergency units have control of an intersection before going through.

"The fire truck slowed down, but it was a four way stop and they had their emergency lights on," Brown said. "[The lights] are a request for a right-of-way to go through, not automatic, but in this case [the fire truck] was already in the middle of the intersection when [it] was [struck]."

Grief counselors were called in to assist those who worked with Merrell and his crew deal with the tragedy. Firefighters were keeping vigil at Christ Hospital for those still hospitalized.

Funeral and Related Information

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Chicago Fire Lieutenant Struck, Killed by Car at Accident Scene

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Firehouse.Com News

The driver of a car that fatally struck a Chicago fire lieutenant on Saturday has been charged with reckless homicide.

Seeing the driver held accountable, however, can provide little satisfaction for the fire department, said spokesman Mike Cosgrove.

"It will not bring Lt. Gillen back," he said. "The fire department is in the midst of preparing a funeral to honor the firefighter and at this time wishes that the law enforcement authorities perform their job and charge the driver with whatever is appropriate," the spokesman said.

Newly appointed lieutenant Scott Gillen, 37, the father of five daughters, was killed as he was working at the scene of a traffic accident shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday morning.

Police said the driver of the car, Carlando Hurt, failed to merge around the parked emergency vehicles.

Gillen was trapped between the car and his own ladder truck, which he had been standing behind. After he was extricated, he was taken to an area hospital where he died a short time later. There were no other serious injuries in the crash.

Other charges Hunt faces include failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, driving under the influence and driving with a revoked license. At a bond hearing, prosecutors also told the judge that Hurt was legally drunk at the tie of the crash, the Chicago Tribune reported. Hunt's bond was set at $400,000.

Gillen was a 14-year veteran of the fire department and is part of a firefighting family. He had been promoted to lieutenant just two weeks ago. The death was the second this year in Chicago involving a vehicle-related accident. Chicago Fire Lieutenant L. C. Merrell was killed and a second firefighter seriously injured when a ladder truck responding to a false alarm on Saturday, Apr. 29 was broadsided by a truck that failed to yield the right-of-way at a four-way stop intersection.

"It is clear that there are members of the public that are not respecting the importance of emergency vehicles responding to alarms," Cosgrove said. "The fire commissioner is very upset that this situation takes such a heavy toll."

Funeral/Memorial Information

Visitation services for Gillen will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 26th from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Sheehy Funeral Home in the 9000 block of W. 151st Street in Orland Park, Ill.

Funeral services will be Wednesday, Dec. 27th at 10 a.m. at St. John Fisher Catholic Church, at 10234 S. Washtenaw Ave. in Chicago.


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