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Posted: July 24, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Chief: Gainesville tragedy won’t be repeated here

Three Hall County firefighters were injured Tuesday after a fire truck ladder collapsed under them during training. The accident resulted in the Sutphen Corp. asking fire departments nationwide to pull some models of their ladder-trucks from service.

But Newton County’s only tower-ladder truck isn’t a Sutphen. It isn’t even on the street. It’s for sale, actually.

Covington Fire Department Chief John McNeil said the department’s tower truck, a combination LTI aerial and IMC cab, is “surplus” and for sale. Sutphen’s request to park all of its SPH 100, SP 110, SPI 112 and SAI 110 Aerial trucks isn’t a factor locally. He said the surplus tower is the only such truck in the county.

Covington has three in-service ladder trucks, which differ from towers like the one in Tuesday’s accident in that they don’t have “buckets” at the ladder’s top. Newton County has two ladder trucks.

Nonetheless, McNeil said Tuesday’s accident serves as a reminder why the department services its ladder trucks daily.
“There’s no guarantees,” he said Thursday. “Something could happen. That’s why we do checks on the aerial (trucks) every day.”

In addition, an independent company checks and certifies each ladder truck every year.

“Those are the things we do to try to prevent (accidents) from happening, but there’s no 100 percent guarantee of anything,” he said.

Testing on the fallen Sutphen truck was expected to begin Thursday.

The three Hall County firefighters, meanwhile, were in intensive care Thursday, according to Covington News sister paper the Gainesville Times. One of the firefighters broke his back. Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle told Times’ reporter Nick Watson that all three were doing well.

Donations for the firefighters can be made to the Hall County Injured Firefighters Fund, Hall County Community Credit Union, 2601 Limestone Parkway, Gainesville, 770-534-4255.

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