One witness said that an MTA bus and a fire truck made a sound like a bomb going off when the vehicles crashed into one another as the FDNY truck rushed to the scene of a fire and commuters on the Q11 Bus tried to reach their destinations in Queens, New York.
The crash occurred at the intersection of 21st Street and Ditmars Boulevard. The fire truck, which was en route to a call about a warehouse fire in Astoria, NY, was in emergency mode (lights flashing and siren blaring) when it apparently went through a red light and collided with a bus that was moving through the intersection at the same time. Twelve bus passengers and two firefighters were all transported to local hospitals with serious injuries. The fire turned out to be two burning tractor-trailers.
At least three parked cars were damaged as well.
Emergency Chases in New York
For decades, bus drivers, fire truck operators, and other common carriers were held to a higher standard because they are, in effect, professional drivers. But the NY Court of Appeals recently overturned that rule, so these drivers now have a duty of reasonable care just like non-commercial vehicle operators.
When first responders are responding to an emergency call, even if the situation turns out to be non-serious, they do not have a duty to stop at red lights, obey the speed limit, or follow some other “rules of the road.” However, NY first responders do have a duty to avoid recklessly endangering the lives or property of others. Barreling through a stop light at full speed in the middle of the day could arguably qualify as reckless endangerment. Of course, in the FDNY’s defense, it is fairly easy to see and hear an oncoming fire truck if another vehicle operator is watching the road and paying attention to driving. A jury ultimately decides whether a line was crossed by the driver of a fire truck or other emergency vehicle involved in an auto accident.
This issue of driver liability is something of a sore spot for the FDNY. In 2005, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced off against union officials after some citizens complained about slow FDNY response times. As a result, “the Fire Department altered its policy so that it no longer urges the same level of caution as the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).” Now, fire truck operators are only encouraged to slow down before crossing against a light. As a result, there may be a spike in deadly collisions like the one that took place in Queens, NY.
First responders can potentially be held liable for the damages they cause in intersection collisions, even if the vehicle was in emergency mode. For a free consultation with attorneys who stand up for auto accident victims, contact Proner & Proner today. An attorney can arrange ongoing medical care for victims, even if they have no money and no insurance.