Suspensions reduced for Portland firefighters involved in boat accident

The Portland Fire Department fireboat Marine 1 (BDN file photo by Seth Koenig)

The city of Portland announced Tuesday that two firefighters involved in a controversial October 2011 accident while using the department fireboat will see their suspensions reduced. That is the result of legal arbitration to resolve a dispute between the city and Local 740 of the International Association of Firefighters, the union which represents the two firefighters in question.

Here is the city’s description of the arbitrator’s ruling in the case:

The arbitrator finds that the incident was an accident and the ensuing damage was unintentional. The findings also state that Marine 1 should not have left the Destroyer Channel and upon doing so, the pilot should have navigated the vessel around marked hazards in a safe manner.The Captain/Engineer should have alerted the pilot to marked hazards as lookout. Both crew members failed in these responsibilities, thus warranting disciplinary suspensions imposed by the Department. However, citing the lack of clarity regarding staffing policies for the operation of Marine 1 (two versus three crew members for certain runs) and the good employment history of Captain Christopher Goodall, his suspension was reduced by the arbitrator to forty-eight hours (six days). For these same reasons, as well as the failure of Captain Goodall to alert the Pilot of the hazard, Pilot Joseph Murphy’s suspension was reduced to twelve hours (1.5 days).

For review, the fireboat sustained approximately $54,000 in damages from the incident, which proved controversial when news broke that there were 12 civilians, including family members of the firefighters, on-board for what was supposed to have been a training exercise. During that exercise, the fireboat struck an “underground object” and sustained damage that then-Fire Chief Frederick LaMontagne described as “avoidable.”

Since the accident, the city has implemented new policies regarding the boat, including restrictions on the transportation of civilians and the requirement of a third crew member for “certain runs,” presumably like the one in which the accident occurred.

New Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria (LaMontagne retired last spring) issued the following statement about the arbitrator’s ruling Tuesday:

With a final decision now rendered, I look forward to putting this matter behind the Department and the city. As emergency responders, Portland firefighters hold a unique place within the community and it is paramount that we preserve the public’s confidence and trust. The community should be assured that we took quick action to address this matter and implemented changes so that an event like this cannot happen again. Every day, the men and women of the Fire Department answer the call for help with kindness and compassion and as fire chief, I am committed to making sure that we not only provide the level of service the city expects but exceed it in quality, efficiency and responsiveness.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.