An LODD Benefits Ruling to Watch

Autopsy on Kentucky chief’s death raise questions of national recognition.

On 12 April 2012, Lake Dreamland Fire Chief John Wilkinson, Jr. responded with his company to a brush fire in the early morning hours. After returning home Wilkinson suffered a reported heart and later died. His death is rightly listed as an official on-duty death according to standards by the U.S. Fire Administration.

Wilkinson Jr., John Earl – Louisville, Kentucky

Yesterday The Courier-Journal reported that autopsy report, released by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, listed Wilkinson’s cause of death as drug and alcohol intoxication, instead of cardiac disease as originally reported.

The report has surprised the members of the local fire board. Current Lake Dreamland Chief Freddie George stated that Wilkinson has undergone annual physicals in the past including drug screening. The Courier-Journal noted that through an open records request, Wilkinson did have heart disease which the coroner’s office said did contribute to his death.

The Kentucky Fire Commission is reportedly reviewing Wilkinson’s case regarding benefits and forwarding onward for federal benefits.

Fire Chief George stated that a proposal for random drug testing of employees and volunteers was being worked on before Wilkinson’s death.

References:
“Fire chief died of drugs and alcohol, autopsy finds” Halladay, The Courier-Journal
The Kentucky Fire Commission

 

 

Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the FireEMSBlogs.com network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

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4 Comments

  • michael says:

    Ho boy, there was a time when my blood incited a Haz-Mat response. (never on or near duty) I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

  • Mark S. says:

    Suggested reading is USFA document Firefighter Autopsy Protocol printed in March 2008 if a newer version is not out there.  Read Section II.  An autopsy is not required but highly recommended by several organizations.  I think it would be extremely difficult to defend a LODD ruling if illegal drugs or excessive alcohol is found.
     

  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    …not saying this applies here, but something to consider.  It is possible to have elevated ETOH levels from burn injuries.  I am a little foggy as to the details, but this was discussed a while back after the Boston LODD that killed Payne and Cahill.  The FAA has some documentation regrading this from plane crash investigations.  I know there was also a case involving a Trooper or Deputy in Ohio. 
    The testing needs to be conclusive and accurate.  

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