vehicle accidents involving fire apparatus, particularly while
responding to alarms has always been one of many hazards inherent to the
job. Collisions occurring between fire apparatus although infrequent,
are especially terrifying and routinely result in devastating property
damage and death. The cause of these mishaps can be attributed to a
variety of reasons, but the circumstances under which they most often
occur are two apparatus that intersect each other's path, usually while
en route to the same alarm. Over the years the Camden Fire Department
has certainly been no exception to these tragic mishaps.
worst of such accidents occurred on a quiet Sunday afternoon, August 16,
1975, at Sixth
Streets, South Camden. Shortly after 4 P.M., the dispatcher
transmitted a Box for a reported vacant building at Sixth
Streets. Engine Company 1
responding first due, got a late start from quarters. Their normal
response route would carry them east on Pine
Street across Broadway,
and to the intersection of Sixth
Street where they would swing left and
proceed north on Sixth
Street. Engine Company 8
responding second due from their firehouse on Kaighns
Avenue, would have a straight and unobstructed run, out Sixth
Street same twelve blocks to the fire. One's
and Eight's used these
response routes thousands of times while responding together, to reach
many neighborhoods adjoining these thorofares. Usually by the time Engine
8 reached the intersection of Sixth
Streets, One's was
already long passed and well ahead of them several
blacks. Rarely did these units cross each other's path on the way.
that Sunday afternoon as Engine
Company 1 crossed Broadway
Engine 8 already well
underway, was roaring past Sixth
Streets rapidly approaching Pine
from the south. The last thing that Engine
Company 8 expected to see upon entering the intersection of Pine
Street, was the blur of another apparatus turning left into its
path. Bath apparatus were identical rigs, 1967 American LaFrance pumpers. The left front cab of Engine
8's pumper impacted along the side of One's
apparatus forcing the rigs together in a pincer motion. The force of the
impact caused both apparatus to bounce off each other and continue
onward. Engine 8 mounted the
sidewalk, apparatus running over a civilian while crashing through the
front of an occupied grocery store, collapsing the front of the
building. The inertia of the collision carried Engine
1 northward along Sixth Street far nearly half a block, hitting
several parked cars before coming to a rest.
Officer and driver of Engine
Company 8 were trapped in the cab of the apparatus, pinned beneath
the collapsed canopy of the pumper's roof.
took more than twenty minutes to extricate both members. The Captain
suffered two broken ankles and a dislocated shoulder. The driver and
both members riding in the rear jump seats suffered a variety of
injuries including lacerations, serious contusions and sprains. A
fire fighter riding in the jump seat of Engine
1 and on the side of impact, was momentarily compressed between the
apparatus and suffered severe internal injury. The remainder of One's
crew sustained a variety of non-life threatening injuries. Miraculously
there were no fire fighter deaths in this grinding collision. Additional
units were summoned to the accident, entered a scene of carnage which
same fighters described as "looking like a war zone". Glass,
debris, apparatus and broken equipment were scattered about the
landscape for nearly a block in every direction.
lone fatality involved the poor civilian bystander who was whisked off
the sidewalk and crushed between the apparatus and the building. The
pumpers were totaled and one fire fighter was permanently disabled,
never returning to the job. Both apparatus
would be replaced by 1975 Maxim engine-forward
pumpers without crew seating and were procured on short notice as stock
models. Their design was quite unusual for city service in that members
were required to ride the backstep. These rigs were also the units in
the Department to herald the adoption of the lime-yellow color, a
departure from over 100 years of red fire apparatus.
Camden Courier-Post * August 18, 1975
Fatal fire truck crash is blamed on their sirens
By TONY DAVIS
A Camden f ire official said he believes Saturday's
collision of two fire trucks that killed one person and injured 14 others was caused by the inability of
the drivers to hear each other‘s vehicle over their own sirens.
First Battalion Chief Joseph Anderson
stressed that he was only “theorizing" and that a full investigation of the crash would begin today.
The two trucks, Engines One and Eight, collided at
Streets at about 5:15 pm,
Saturday, Anderson said.
The impact of the crash sent
Eight, which was
heading north on 6th Street, into the Livecchi grocery store while
One, which was head ing
east on Pine Street, stopped safely about one block north on 6th Street, Anderson said.
The two vehicles were
en route to the scene of a minor fire in a vacant house about two blocks from
the scene of the collision. Anderson said another truck was called to extinguish the blaze.
Dead was 65-year-old Wilkins Tisdale, of 583
Street, Camden, according to Blair M. Murphy, an investigator for the Camden County Medical
Examiner’s office, Murphy said the causes of death were internal injuries and a severed arm.
Tisdale, a retired
construction worker who had just walked out of the
grocery store, was pinned for 90 minutes under a large freezer in the
store, Anderson said.
Juanita Dorsey, 34, 704 Pine Street Camden, who had
been standing inside the store, was pinned under the freezer when it was hit by the
truck, Anderson said. The woman was listed in satisfactory
condition in Cooper Hospital with back injuries.
Sorenson, a hoseman for Engine Eight, was in critical condition at Cooper with a punctured lung,
broken ribs and a broken nose, right shoulder and right arm.
Delfing. driver of Engine One, and James
Peterson, driver of Engine Eight, were both pinned inside the cabs of their vehicles for 20
and released from Cooper for head and facial injuries, Anderson said.
Sorenson and five other firemen on the two trucks
were all thrown from them by the crash. The other firemen injured were
Joseph Chelhowski, captain of
Engine Eight, who was in satisfactory condition in West Jersey Hospital, Northern Division with ankle
injuries and bruises.
Collum, captain of Engine One, who was in stable condition at Cooper with a concussion, a
broken finger, contusions and bruises.
Smith, a hoseman for Engine Eight, who was being held for observation at or Lady of Lourdes
Hospital with head and facial cuts and bruises.
Asher, a hoseman for Engine One, and Paul Capazola, a hoseman for Engine Eight, who were
treated and released from Cooper for cuts and bruises.
Five other persons were injured, none seriously, in
the crash. One, Leonard Medford, of 611 Line Street, Camden, was in satisfactory condition at Cooper
Hospital with leg injuries. The others were all treated and released from Cooper and Lourdes
Anderson said the diesel engines of the two trucks
both received “extensive" damage and that he did not know if the eight-year-old trucks, which he said
usually last 15 years, could be used again.
V. Michalak said the department has pressed two of its older, auxiliary pumpers into
service to keep the city's nine engine companies and three ladder companies at full
Michalak said, however, that the two trucks damaged
were among the newest the City owned.
Although he would put no dollar estimate on the
damages, he said they were “excessive" and that it would not be known until at least Tuesday
whether they could be repaired.
The city will not be receiving any new fire trucks
until next April, when delivery of four pumpers is expected.
Although the city has experienced fire truck mishaps
before, the chief, a 33-year veteran of the force, said this was the most serious.
He would not comment on the cause of the accident
pending completion of the department's investigation.
August 18, 1975
peer solemnly at Camden fire truck that crashed into corner
grocery at 6th and Pine Street, Camden killing one man and
injuring 14 other persons after collision with another fire
truck at intersection
August 18, 1975
of fire engine lies atop freezer where it came to rest after
slamming through grocery store wall
Courier-Post * August 22, 1975
Checking Into Crash
brakes on one Camden fire engine will be examined by a
specialist to see whether brake failure was responsible for
Saturday’s collision of two fire trucks in which one man was
killed and l4 persons injured.
Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Jiannetto. appearing before Camden City
Council Thursday. said he felt the possibility of brake failure
was remote because Engine
No. 8 is safeguarded by a complex triple-brake system.
Peterson, the driver
for Engine Co. No. 8. reported he believed the brakes on his
vehicle failed to function when he saw Engine
Co. No. 1 emerge from a cross-street.
collision occurred at 6th and
Streets as both fire
companies were responding to a house fire about two blocks north
of the accident scene. The crash sent Engine No. 8 through the
wall of Livecchi's Grocery at 601 Pine Street, killing Wilkins
Tisdale, 65, a shopper emerging from the store at the time.
No. 8 was traveling north on 6th, which is a through street.
while Engine No. 1 was headed east on Pine for 7th
Street, where the driver planned to turn north to the fire
captains reported their vehicles were traveling at a relatively
slow rate of speed, and that buildings at the corners of 6th and
Pine obscured their view.
was also speculation that the drivers were unable to hear each
other approach became of the none from their own sirens.
far, fire and police department investigators have not yet fixed
blame on either driver, according to Public Safety Director
said representatives from Ward Lafrance Co., manufacturers of
the two eight-year-old vehicles, have told them Engine No. 1 was
demolished, but Engine No. 8 may be repairable.
McKernan, city attorney, said the city carries $250 deductible
collision insurance on both vehicles, and said the city is also
covered by liability insurance concerning the injuries and
damages caused to those outside the department.
Dorsey, 34, of 704 Pine Street, listed in fair condition at
Cooper Hospital with back injuries.
Medford, of 611 Line Street, listed in fair condition at Cooper
with leg injuries.
Sorenson. a hoseman for Co. No.8, listed in serious condition at
Cooper with a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken nose,
shoulder and arm.
Smith, also a hoseman for Co. No. 8. listed in satisfactory
condition at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital with head and facial