British Firefighter Charged with Manslaughter

Perhaps it is appropriate to mention this case over the 4th of July holiday, and then again perhaps it is in bad taste. Nevertheless, on July 2, 2010 a British firefighter was charged with manslaughter for the death of a farmer who was trampled to death when his cattle were spooked by the lights and siren from a fire truck. Seriously….  You can’t make this stuff up.

The incident occurred last August in Burtle, near Glastonbury, England. Firefighter Julian Lawford, 49, was driving his fire apparatus to a vehicle accident when he passed the farm of Harold Lee, age 75. Mr. Lee was herding about 70 head of cattle when the cattle became startled by the lights and siren, fatally injuring the farmer.

Lee’s family have reportedly complained that if the firefighter had simply waited a few minutes for the cattle to be cleared off the road, the incident could have been avoided.

Firefighter Lawford was suspended from his department, and appeared in court today to plead not guilty. Thankfully, Lawford was granted bail. The trial is tentatively set for December 13, 2010, and is expected to take six days to try.

So as we approach the Fourth of July, I can’t help but say: Thank you George Washington.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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