Firefighters are like police officers in that they are supposed to do all they can to protect the residents of Illinois. They both receive extensive training at taxpayer expense, and civilians are expected to afford them a certain level of respect. In short, police and firefighters are in the business of saving lives – not taking them.
Which is why a fatal auto accident in Cook County last week is so disturbing. On Friday afternoon shortly before 1:45pm, a 45-year old Orland Fire Protection District firefighter was driving a Lincoln Navigator east on 167th Street on the edge of the St. Mihiel Reservation in Tinley Park, less than a mile west of Cicero Avenue. Police say that the sport utility vehicle was weaving back and forth across lanes and traveling about 60mph in a 35mph zone. The SUV slammed into the back of a Hummer near Lockwood Street and then careened into oncoming traffic, where it struck an Oldsmobile. The Hummer driver suffered a concussion and cracked vertebra; but the Oldsmobile driver, a 25-year old Downers Grove woman, died from injuries that she sustained in the crash. The firefighter later admitted that he had taken prescription pain medication prior to the auto accident.
There appears to be little doubt that the 45-year old man will be held solely responsible for the crash and the ensuing casualties. That means that the driver of the Hummer has solid grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the fireman. In addition, the surviving family members of the Downers Grove woman (who include a father and an older sister) may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the firefighter.
Since the SUV driver was not working at the time of the crash and was driving a private vehicle, the Orland Fire Protection District will probably not be held liable for the wreck.