Polk County and SnapChatting Captain Sued Over 2017 Fire

The family of a man killed in a house fire in 2017, has filed suit against Polk County Fire Rescue and a former captain who was at the center of a subsequent YCMTSU incident.

The fire on October 11, 2017 claimed the life of Edward McLaughlin, 78. Six other occupants escaped the early morning blaze. McLaughlin’s family is now suing the county and former Captain James Williams, claiming they were negligent in their rescue efforts.

The Ledger quoted from the complaint: “Polk County Fire Rescue could have and should have attempted the rescue of Edward McLaughlin, but failed to do so.” The complaint is not available at this time, but will be posted here when it becomes available.

Captain Walker resigned earlier this year following an investigation into a house fire on November 23, 2018 that claimed the life of Loretta Pickard, 77. Pickard was on the phone with dispatchers for approximately 20 minutes, including up to the point that she lost consciousness.

Captain Williams was suspended for sending a Snapchat video from the scene. It is unclear whether the Snapchat was sent during the time Pickard was fighting for her life, or later in the incident. He was the initial IC at the scene. Questions were also raised about whether he should have been more aggressive in gaining access to conduct a primary search. A lawsuit by Pickard’s family is also expected.

More on the McLaughlin lawsuit.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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