Latest serious firefighter injury a reminder that roadside is ‘a dangerous place to be’

Firefighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel often put their lives at risk when they respond to crash scenes.

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The latest incident happened Wednesday night on U.S. 68 in Springfield Twp. Firefighter David E. Noble, 72, was helping a motorist involved in a crash when Noble himself was struck by a passing motorist. Noble’s leg was amputated as a result of the injuries he sustained, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol Springfield Post.

"It's becoming an increased problem additionally with distracted driving,” said Doug Stern, spokesman for the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters.

“There's nothing more harrowing than working on an auto accident, turning around and seeing a car come by you a foot away at a high rate of speed,” Stern said.

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State law was changed after the 1998 double-fatal crash on I-675 that took the lives of Centerville Police Officer John Kalaman and Firefighter Robert O’Toole.

In addition, Firefighter Charles Arnold was seriously injured when the three men were standing in the median at a crash and a motorist lost control and struck all three as they were standing in the median.

The families of those killed pushed for the change in Ohio law, resulting in the rule of slow down/move over for emergency vehicles at crash scenes.

Centerville Police Spokesman John Davis said that since the tragedy, police have worked closely with the fire department to better control traffic flow at crash scenes. That often involves closing multiple lanes around a crash and positioning a fire engine ahead of the scene to give motorists warning.

"It's a dangerous place to be. There's so many distracted drivers, there's so many people that they're in a hurry they don't seem to pay attention to what's going on ahead of them,” Davis said. “That law is in place to protect the first responders. If you can’t get over, slow down substantially … get it down to a manageable speed to where you can react if something happens in front of you.”

Stern cites statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation that are used in training emergency personnel:

Annual average fatal “struck-by incidents” at crash scenes

10: Law enforcement officers

4: Firefighters

40-60: Estimated number of towing and recovery professionals

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