Autopsy results raise policy questions in West fire response

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JOBIN PANICKER / WFAA

Posted on August 8, 2013 at 10:46 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 9 at 8:44 AM

WEST - They're men who came to action when the town of West needed them most.

West's Mayor Tommy Muska says the firefighters who sacrificed everything didn't hesitate to answer the call for help before the explosion in mid-April that rocked the town of West.

However, on Thursday, News 8 obtained autopsy reports that the mayor said indicate three of the responding firefighters shouldn't have answered the call.

"No, they shouldn't have gone to the fire," Muska said.

The report shows heroic brothers Douglas and Robert Snokhous, of West, had blood-alcohol levels well above the legal limit. Douglas had a blood alcohol level of .12 and Robert .158.

"That's a city policy that you don't get in a fire truck if you were drinking and you don't go to the fire," Muska said.

Abbott firefighter Jerry Chapman had cannabis in his system, according to the autopsy report. It showed THC levels of 45 ng/mL.

"I truly think they're all still heroes and this didn't diminish my opinion of them in the least," Muska said.

The mayor said there's no written code about operating under the influence, but said it's a common understanding among firefighters. The mayor said he expects the fire chief to reiterate the rules to the firefighters.

But, the International Association of Fire Chiefs does have this rule:

"[It] is a "zero-tolerance" standard about the use of alcohol by members of any fire or emergency services agency/organization at any time when they may be called upon to act or respond as a member of those departments."

The mayor said he knew the autopsy reports would come out at some point and urged families of the victims not to read them, sometheing he said he didn't do as well.

"I don't need to read it," he said. "There's nothing in there I need to read and there's nothing that's going to bring those guys back."
 

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