An injured worker at Lu Dumpling House spoke to NBC4 about two fire trucks crashing into the restaurant where she works. Patrick Healy reports from Monterey Park for the NB4 News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
The drivers of two fire trucks that collided last week may not have been able to see the other around a building at the corner, a witness told NBC4.
The fire trucks were responding April 16 to the same fire from different different directions. A Monterey Park fire engine eastbound on Emerson Avenue collided at the intersection of Garfield Avenue with a ladder truck headed southbound from Alhambra.
A two-story office building sits at the northwest corner.
"I believe with that building they could not see each other," said Marc Duarte, who heard both sirens from his shop at the southwest corner and looked up in time to see the fire vehicles approaching and making no apparent effort to slow down.
The doors to the office building were locked Tuesday and no one responded to a knock.
After the collision, the engine veered into the Mama Lu dumpling restaurant on the southeast corner of the intersection.
In all, 14 people were injured: the three firefighters were aboard each vehicle, and eight people at the restaurant, including a pedestrian outside whose leg had to be amputated. He remains hospitalized in intensive care at County-USC Medical Center, but his condition has improved to stable and he is expected to survive.
The collision is being investigated by a specialized California Highway Patrol team known by the acronym MAIT (Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team). Its report is expected to take weeks if not months. The CHP Tuesday declined to respond to an NBC4 request for an update on the investigation.
Barring a malfunction of the traffic signals at the intersection, one of the vehicles would have
been driving through a red light. Emergency responders are authorized to do so with lights and siren in code three responses when time is of the essence.
However, responders are required to use their judgment to maintain speeds safe enough to avoid collisions if other vehicles do not yield to the lights and siren.
Both vehicles had been dispatched to the same house fire by the regional Verdugo Fire Communications Center, which handles responses for 13 fire agencies. Because the individual fire agencies are medium to small, in some cases with only a handful of vehicles, it is not unusual to dispatch from multiple agencies, Executive Administrator Don Wise said.
It is likely the individual responders knew that other units were dispatched, but not their locations
The fire vehicles were equipped with GPS and AVL--automatic vehicle locating
systems, which track the individual vehicle's route to an emergency. Some sophisticated systems can display the locations of other emergency responders--but the vehicles responding last Wednesday did not have that capability, Wise said.