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Faulty Fire Truck Design Responsible for Firefighter’s Death

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Looks like three tragedies flowed from an August 6, 2005 fire truck accident. A 1987 Spartan fire truck driven by Riverside firefighter Michael Arizaga hydroplaned off Interstate 10 near Highway 60 resulting in the death of Riverside firefighter Chris Kanton. Other firefighters in the fire truck were injured as well, according to the Press Enterprise.

The first tragedy was the loss of the life of firefighter Chris Kanton. Chris was only 23-years old. He lived in Temecula, California.

The second tragedy was that of Michael Arizaga who was charged by the Riverside District Attorney’s office with manslaughter. The DA’s office claimed that it was Arizaga’s negligence that caused Kanton’s death in the fire truck accident. The California Highway Patrol report states that the truck was speeding in suddenly rainy conditions, going 45 mph and that neither Arizaga nor Kanton were wearing seatbelts when the accident occurred, according to the Press Enterprise. Arizaga was responsible for his crew wearing seat belts according to the CHP.

The third tragedy was that it has been determined that the fire truck’s design was responsible for the fatal August 6, 2005 accident and it does not appear that a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Chris Kanton’s heirs within the two year statute of limitations period. Kanton’s heirs could have sought compensation for Kanton’s death and sought to hold the negligent fire truck manufacturer accountable for the truck’s defective design.

In the 102 year history of Cal Fire, the agency that Riverside County contracts with for fire services, never has a firefighter been charged with manslaughter involving an on-duty death. The DA’s office came to their senses this week, after putting Arizaga of Beaumont through hell for the last two years and dropped the charges against Arizaga. Arizaga had turned 48 the day before the charges were dropped.

According to Assistant District Attorney Sara Danville, the manslaughter charge was dropped after it was determined that the accident was caused by weight-distribution factors in the fire truck’s design. Apparently the less than ideal weight-distribution caused the fire truck to fishtail and overturn when it hydroplaned on a very wet Interstate 10. It is shame it took two years to come to this conclusion.

Did anyone think to share this design defect with Chris Kanton’s family? If a defect in the fire truck’s design caused Kanton’s death and injuries to others, they, along with the Workers’ Compensation insurance company for all of them, may have wanted to pursue their rights against the maker of the Spartan fire truck in a “product defect” claim. There is a two year statute of limitations for this type of claim by most persons. So, for most everyone who may have had a right to compensation, their rights are terminated, unless they filed a lawsuit before the two year deadline.

If Chris Kanton has any children, his children would still have time to file a lawsuit. They have until their 20th birthday. The children’s biggest challenge right now would be preservation of evidence. Their attorneys need to immediately preserve the crashed Spartan fire truck for evidence of the defect.

For questions about defective trucks that have caused serious or fatal injuries, call me for a discussion. The call is free. The piece of mind may be priceless.

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