Lawsuit: Philadelphia firefighter who died in 2014 blaze had faulty gear

Joyce Craig

Joyce Craig

The estate of a Philadelphia firefighter who died in a basement blaze in 2014 has sued the companies that manufactured her safety equipment, saying she would have survived if her gear had functioned properly.

Firefighter Joyce M. Craig, 36, became the city’s first female firefighter to die in the line of duty when she was found, collapsed, Dec. 9, 2014, in a burning row home on Middleton Street in West Oak Lane.

She was wearing the face mask of her Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), but there was no air in her tank and a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) failed to notify responders to her location, according to the lawsuit. She died of suffocation, according to the lawsuit, which alleges negligence, product liability and wrongful death.

Craig “literally went into the heat of battle without the proper resources to come out alive,” attorney David L. Kwass said. “Her so-called life saving equipment, (which) she was trained to trust, failed – and failed fatally – because of the defendants, who were responsible for its design, manufacture, and maintenance … This was a totally foreseeable and preventable tragedy .. (Craig) never stood a chance at surviving that fire because her equipment – from her personal protective suit to her air tank system – was inadequate.”

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The lawsuit names 30 defendants, including Scott Health and Safety, Tyco, Fisher Scientific, Goodyear, Smith Fire Service, Cairns and Brother, and Majestic Fire Apparel. Those firms couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Craig wasn’t scheduled that day, but reported to work to earn overtime to pay for Christmas presents for her children, according to attorneys from Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, who filed the complaint Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Craig was the single mother of a son Mekhi Green, now 18, and daughter Laylani Craig-Lewis, now 3.

Investigators identified a series of errors that occurred during the fire that contributed to its deadly outcome, including communication problems and inexperienced crew members. Craig’s firefighting partner settled her complaint against the city stemming from the blaze for $105,000 in 2015.

Federal investigators with the National Institute for Safety and Health have completed their probe of the deadly blaze, said Nura Sadeghpour, a NIOSH spokeswoman. Their draft report remains under review, with a final report expected to be publicly released in January or February, she added.


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