Firefighter death prompts call to change protocol - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Firefighter death prompts call to change protocol

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A former volunteer firefighter is calling for a change in Kentucky law that, he says, would protect emergency responders working a scene along an interstate.

The call for change is prompted by the death of Glendale firefighter Jonathan French, who was killed early Wednesday morning as he was working a vehicle fire along Interstate 65.

Former volunteer firefighter for the LaGrange Fire Department, Mike Sievert, says smaller departments outside Metro Louisville are generally not allowed to close interstates while they work. Sievert says rural departments are only allowed to shut down a freeway when responding to a fatal accident.

"I always said the best thing is, just shut it down. For my safety, my crew. But they never would," Sievert said.

By "they," Sievert is referring to Kentucky State Police. Sievert says KSP takes its orders from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Sievert says the death of Jonathan French, 25, is a tragedy that could have been avoided.

"It shouldn't have happened. It's senseless," he said.

French was working alongside his mother, Lisa French, and his uncle, Glendale Volunteer Fire Chief Richard Peters, when he was struck and killed by a passing semi. Lisa French was sent to University of Louisville Hospital with serious injuries. She was listed in stable condition Thursday evening.

Peters says both fire trucks' emergency lights were on, and safety barricades were in place when the semi first clipped a truck and then hit both Jonathan and Lisa French. None of the lanes on the freeway were closed, which Peters says is standard procedure based on orders from Kentucky State Police.

Sievert says injury and death could have been avoided Wednesday had the freeway been shut down, allowing the Glendale Volunteer Fire Department time to put out the vehicle fire. Sievert says he knew it was only a matter of time before someone was seriously injured or killed. He has come close himself.

"An elderly gentleman came right through the scene, almost striking myself, my partner and the crew from Lebanon Junction Fire," he said. "We've had several close calls."

Bigger departments don't report the same problems. Representatives from both the Lyndon Fire Department and Shelby County Fire tell WDRB that they shut the freeway down whenever they feel it is necessary.

Sievert says rural departments don't get the same luxury.

"We don't have the connection, we don't have the authority like they do,"said Sievert. "The Kentucky Department of Transportation has such a hand on rural departments."

Sievert says he plans to take the proposal to Frankfort. Meanwhile, French's family and the fire department is behind it.

"It happened for a reason, and if this is the reason, to make it safer for everybody else, then Jonathan died doing what he wanted to do," said Peters.

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