Four Kentucky firefighters who were participating in an ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” by dumping water on college students were injured when their fire truck’s ladder got too close to a power line. The accident happened on Thursday the 21st, after the college students had already passed under the ladder. No students were hurt.

The power line was never touched, but it was a high voltage line that was able to energize the ladder truck, shocking the firefighters. Two firefighters were in the bucket when the accident occurred. They were taken to a hospital burn unit early Friday, with one in critical condition and the other in fair condition. The other two firefighters received minor injuries, and were released after treatment.

I certainly would not have seen that coming. Sounds like a teachable moment for firefighters everywhere.

The men had just taken part in the challenge when the accident occurred. They dumped water on Campbellsville University’s marching band, and most of the students had already left when it happened. Those that did witness the event were apparently traumatized by what they saw. The incident knocked out power for approximately an hour to 4,500 customers, including the school.

Captain Tony Grider, 41, and Simon A. Quinn, 22, were in the fire truck bucket. Grider is a 16-year veteran of the department, and appears to have taken the brunt of the electrical surge. He was in critical condition at the University of Louisville Medical Center Burn Unit. Quinn, a part-time firefighter, was listed in fair condition there.

Now, the question, of course; is this a compensable injury under workers' compensation?

Some would say “no”, as standing in a bucket pouring ice water over a marching band is not anywhere within the normal course and scope of a firefighters job. They might classify it as horseplay, or some other event definitively separate from the responsibilities of the job itself.

I suspect many more of us, however, would say “yes”, simply because they were acting on behalf of their employer in a public relations event. They were presumably “on duty” at the time. They were using company equipment and wearing company gear. They were there because at that time and place, that event was a specific part of their job.

Besides, as a nation we generally have a well earned soft spot for our “first responders”. Many states have expanded benefits and compensability guidelines for firefighters and emergency personnel that incorporate illnesses and conditions not allowable in the private sector. This trend is an acknowledgment of a job, and the people who work it, that routinely faces danger to protect others lives and property.

I absolutely believe this is a compensable event. The bigger issue is, was someone negligent in the placement of that ladder configuration? I am not qualified to judge, and it seems like an extraordinarily rare event to me – a freak accident if there ever was one. It is possible no one did anything that would be considered wrong at the time, but it certainly is something to learn from for the future.

Working around high power lines can have shocking results, and that is not a notion we should pour cold water on.

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