Phoenix (AZ) Fire Apparatus Collides with SUV

Officials said a Phoenix (AZ) fire engine was responding to a fire at a vacant house at about 3:45 a.m. Friday when it collided with an SUV.

The SUV spun and ended up on the grounds of a gas station while the fire engine lost control and careened for 200 feet before landing on its side, officials said.

Officials declined to say how fast the vehicles were traveling.

Four firefighters and the SUV’s driver were injured. The firefighters were released from a hospital with “bumps and bruises.” The medical status of the SUV’s driver was not clear.

Initial reports indicated the SUV had a green light, but police and fire officials have since said it’s too early in the investigation to determine.

Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos said witnesses at the scene gave conflicting statements about who had the right of way. Police said investigators would instead rely on security-camera footage and accident reconstruction, among other evidence.

Martos said police ruled out impairment for both drivers.

Matthew Heil, a spokesman for the city’s transportation department, said a worker tested an “emergency-vehicle pre-emption” device at the intersection after the accident and confirmed that it was in working condition. The device detects an oncoming fire truck or ambulance and changes the intersection’s traffic light so that the emergency vehicles have the right of way. The traffic signal for vehicles traveling perpendicular to the emergency vehicle’s path will turn from green to yellow and then to red.

Tony Mure, a Fire Department spokesman, said fire trucks and ambulances utilize a small, white strobe light to trigger the device.

A computer associated with the device then quickly analyzes other factors at the intersection, such as an illuminated crosswalk sign. If a pedestrian is crossing the street in the path of the firetruck or ambulance, the light will not change until the pedestrian has time to get out of the way.

Mure said he does not know how fast the fire engine was traveling but said the department trains its drivers on how to minimize risk on the road.

Geoff Trachtenberg, a partner with Phoenix law firm Levenbaum Trachtenberg, said if the fire truck ran a red light, the city could be liable for damages, but it’s not an open-and-shut case.

“People are sympathetic to firefighters,” said Trachtenberg, who has represented clients involved in crashes with municipally owned vehicles. “I mean, they’re putting their lives in danger.”

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