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Firefighter’s Widow Alleges Department Failed to Properly Maintain Equipment.

The widow of a LA firefighter who was killed last year while on duty has sued the fire department and the city for allegedly causing his death by refusing to replace outdated equipment.

Ralph Arabie, a 30-year veteran of the David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1, was killed in September 2008 at the station when the hydraulic boom of a 1965 aerial device struck and pinned his head to the back of one of the station’s trucks. He was pronounced dead at the scene of blunt force trauma to the head.

The lawsuit, filed alleges that Arabie was killed because the city and station failed to “properly maintain an already over aged fire truck,” and “replace overly-aged hydraulic components.”

Jan Arabie is suing for damages including the loss of her spouse, loss of support, mental anguish and emotional distress.

The fire department and city “were so aware of the degenerative condition of the fire truck . . . and its risk for death or serious bodily injury that they impounded the articulating aerial platform, including the boom . . . so that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would not be able to inspect it,” she alleges in the lawsuit.

Arabie also accuses the defendants of not obtaining funding to replace the truck or outfitting it with safety features despite the availability of federal grants.

“They knew it was unsafe yet they failed to provide the funding to equip it with the proper and modern safety measures and/or to retire it to ensure the safety of its firefighters,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit comes after NIOSH, a federal agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, investigated Arabie’s death and released a report in June recommending that fire equipment more than 25 years old be retired since significant safety improvements have been made in that time.

Although NIOSH could not determine if the accident was due to the age of the aerial platform’s mechanics because it had been impounded, it suggested that the station’s 1968 fire truck, 1980 command vehicle and the 1965 aerial device involved in Arabie’s death be retired.

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