One firefighter critical, other in stable condition

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Incident remains under investigation.

By Calen McKinney



They are two of the many who respond when Taylor County residents need help. Thursday, they were the ones in need.

Firefighter Tony Grider is still in critical condition and Alex Quinn was in stable condition after they were shocked Thursday afternoon when they got too close to a power line after helping Campbellsville University students with an ALS cold water challenge.

The men were two of four Campbellsville Fire & Rescue personnel injured at 11:42 a.m. Thursday after a ladder from a fire truck approached power lines, and the proximity of the ladder to the lines allowed what is known as an electric arc to occur, which caused the men to be shocked.

The incident took place on the Campbellsville University campus just after the firefighters used their aerial ladder truck to spray some CU band students during an ALS cold water challenge. No students were injured in the incident, though many witnessed the firefighters being shocked.

Campbellsville/Taylor County EMS personnel responded to the scene to treat the four men. Air Evac helicopters flew Grider and Quinn from the CU baseball field for treatment. They were taken to Taylor Regional Hospital and then transported to Louisville for further treatment.

As of Saturday morning, they were both still receiving treatment in the burn unit at University of Louisville Medical Center.

Capt. Steve Marrs and Alex Johnson, also Campbellsville Fire & Rescue personnel, were the other two personnel shocked. The men were also in the truck during the cold water challenge. They were transported to Taylor Regional Hospital by medic unit. They were treated and released.

There were widespread power outages in Campbellsville after the incident. Power was restored to the nearly 4,500 customers within a few hours.

At a news conference at 5 p.m. Thursday, Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young called the situation a tragic accident and asked for prayers for those involved.

Young said EMS personnel from Adair, Green, LaRue, Marion and Pulaski counties have volunteered to help Campbellsville/Taylor County EMS personnel provide coverage for the Taylor County area as investigators were on the scene at CU for several hours.

Young said information about the incident is limited and the investigation is still in its preliminary stage.

Campbellsville Fire & Rescue Chief Kyle Smith was in Louisville at the hospital with Grider and Quinn during the news conference, so Young asked Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette to speak.

Hazlette said Grider, 41, a captain with Fire & Rescue, and Quinn, 22, who is a part-time firefighter, were in the "bucket" portion of the aerial ladder truck.

After the cold water challenge ended, the firefighters were in the process of moving the ladder to its travel position. Hazlette said a preliminary investigation has revealed that, as the bucket came closer to a power line, it crossed the electric energy threshold, which caused the electric arc that struck Grider and Quinn.

Marrs, 37, and Johnson, 28, assumed control of the ladder in an attempt to lower it to the ground. In the process, Marrs and Johnson received electrical shocks from current traveling down the ladder.

Grider is a 16-year veteran at Campbellsville Fire & Rescue. Marrs has worked there for 11 years and Johnson is in his third year.

Hazlette said the power line didn't actually touch the aerial truck, but did get very close to it. He said he didn't know if the four had training about being close to power lines, but presumed they did.

Hazlette also said investigators don't believe any fire and rescue or power line equipment malfunctioned in the incident.

He said he believes the fire and rescue fleet - even if the aerial truck is taken out of service during the investigation - is adequate to cover the community.

The incident is under investigation. Campbellsville Police officers are leading the investigation, with help from Kentucky Fire Commission and United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration personnel.

Johnson said he can't comment on the incident and Marrs said he would have to be given permission to speak publicly about the incident. At press time, he hadn't contacted the News-Journal.

CU President Dr. Michael Carter released the following statement in a news release on Thursday afternoon.

"We express heartfelt sympathy and prayers for the families of the two firefighters who were injured."

CU students, faculty and staff members, along with several members of the Taylor County community, gathered on the CU campus Thursday night to pray for the four firefighters. Hundreds attended.

At press time, Smith hadn't returned a phone call to comment for this story.