“Unsuitable” Parts

Ladder 26 was pulled from a building after its deadly crash. Police officials concluded that the brakes were manually adjusted repeatedly, which may have masked deficient performance. (Evan Richman/ Globe Staff)

Ladder 26 was pulled from a building after its deadly crash. Police officials concluded that the brakes were manually adjusted repeatedly, which may have masked deficient performance. (Evan Richman/ Globe Staff)

A detailed police report from a recent investigation of a fatal Boston firetruck crash concludes that a Fire Department contractor installed the wrong parts on the ladder truck’s brakes several months before the crash and that firefighters who were not licensed mechanics repeatedly adjusted the brakes in violation of national safety guidelines.

The contractor replaced a brake chamber and brake pads on Ladder 26 with “unsuitable’’ parts in spring 2008, which decreased stopping power significantly, according to a copy of the report obtained by the Globe. A few months later, when firefighters working on the truck noticed the brakes not working properly, they made manual adjustments that may have masked underlying problems.

The report, prepared by Boston police homicide investigators, points to guidelines issued in 2006 by the National Transportation Safety Board that said such adjustments are “a dangerous practice that can have serious consequences.’’

Read more of the Boston Globe’s report
Boston Channel 5, Cops: Crashed Fire Truck Had Wrong Parts
NIOSH Safety Advisory:Manual Adjustment of Automatic Slack Adjusters May Contribute to Unexpected Brake Failure on Automotive Fire Apparatus

Excerpt from District Attorney Daniel Conley’s letter to Commissioner Fraser

“While there were cars parked along the odd-numbered side of Parker Hill Avenue and no cars parked along the even numbered side, there were civilian pedestrians walking along both sides of the street. Recognizing the danger to civilian pedestrians and knowing that the runaway fire truck could push parked vehicles and light fixtures onto the residences lining Parker Hill Avenue, Lieutenant Kelly instructed Firefighter O’Neill not to do so. On that instruction Firefighter O’Neill proceeded to guide Ladder 26 into a thick masonry wall between 835 Huntington Avenue and the street.

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