A lawsuit filed by an injured firefighter claims that Pennsylvania’s North Bangor VFC in Upper Mount Bethel Township (Northampton County) allowed a “party atmosphere” where firefighters drink and drive apparatus. Tom Shortell with The Express-Times reports that 41-year-old Stuart Mintz and his wife are suing former assistant chief Zachary Romano, the department and others after Mintz was injured when the tanker Romano was driving overturned while they were returning from a parade on July 10, 2010.
On the way to the parade, Romano stopped for a 30-pack of Coors Light in Stockertown, according to the suit. As Romano drove the truck through the streets of Tatamy, Mintz said he saw Romano continue to drink beer, the suit claims. When the truck was towed away, empty beer cans were found inside, according to police.
Romano, Mintz’s superior at the company, was negligent in drunkenly driving the fire truck and for assigning Mintz to ride with him, the suit claims. The suit also claims Fire Chief Frederick Farleigh, Company President Christopher Louszko, former Upper Mount Bethel Township Supervisor Ed Nelson, the company and the township are responsible. All had some supervisory role over Romano and allowed alcohol abuse to become a fact of life at the fire station, the suit says.
Reporter Shortell says he was unable to reach any of the people mentioned in the lawsuit for comment.
The paper says that Romano, who was 20-year-old at the time, was charged with drunken driving after the crash but that records don’t indicate how the charges were resolved in court.
Mintz claims in his suit that Romano, who was 20 at the time, had been drinking throughout the day — first at the North Bangor Fire Co. station at 301 Lake Minsi Drive, then while he was driving the truck in the parade and again at a celebration at the Tatamy Fire Hall after the parade.
Mintz says in his suit that they (fire and township officials) all knew Romano “had a history of heavy drinking and drinking and driving,” adding they were, or should have been, responsible for policies governing the fire company and screening applicants.
He also says the fire company created a “party atmosphere”; encouraged members to drink, and allowed them to operate fire vehicles with open containers of alcohol.
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