Pushed too far? Watertown fire chief troubled by data from fallen recruit’s training

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 4:00 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Despite calls to do so, the state’s attorney general won’t investigate the death of Watertown firefighter Peyton Morse. We’ve also learned Watertown’s fire chief has data from Morse’s breathing apparatus that makes him worry his recruit may have been pushed too far at the training facility.

Firefighter Morse died after a medical emergency during what’s called “mask confidence,” a training evolution at the state site in Montour Falls.

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk says the state Attorney General’s Office explained to him it could become a conflict of interest for the AG if that office has to defend the academy for some reason.

And if there’s a reason the academy needs to be defended, Watertown Fire Chief Matt Timerman wants to know it.

He says things are moving slowly, and the data he possesses has him concerned about the academy’s training culture.

“Even at the pace we’re at right now, it’s frustratingly slow, the pace that we’re at right now,” said Timerman.

It’s the first time Timerman has spoken to 7 News since the death of his recruit, Peyton Morse.

The chief just learned the Attorney General’s Office won’t conduct an investigation into the training academy where Morse had problems March 3, dying March 12.

“If this happened because of someone’s negligence, then Peyton deserves justice. But we won’t know until we get the results of the investigation and we won’t get the results of the investigation until the investigation gets underway. So we’re pushing for an honest, in depth investigation and let the chips fall where they may,” said Timerman.

A state agency, PESH, which stands for Public Employee Safety and Health, and looks into on the job deaths of public employees, is conducting its own investigation. But to the chief’s best knowledge, it hasn’t gotten far.

Timerman is adamant the Montour Falls site needs to be put under a microscope. Convinced after talking to recruits, including another Watertown recruit, who were all in the room when Peyton experienced a medical emergency and called out for help.

“There’s more information beyond just that Peyton called out for help that I can’t get into, but certainly the information that I have received first-hand from other recruits and other fire chiefs definitely makes me wonder if there’s more to this situation,” said Timerman.

Chief Timerman also points to what he learned from Morse’s air pack as a reason why he demands an honest investigation. The apparatus Peyton was wearing has an onboard computer, logging information while it’s in use. What the data showed Chief Timerman concerns him that recruits are being pushed too far.

The data from Morse’s air pack shows how much oxygen he went through on that day of training.

When asked if Morse went through more oxygen in that day of training than a firefighter would at a structure fire, Timerman said, “I can’t go into too much detail because we haven’t commenced the investigation on the air pack yet. But I can tell you that the amount of air cylinders that Peyton depleted that day was far in excess of what would be expected of a Watertown city firefighter at a structure fire. We try to limit ourselves to 2 air cylinders or maybe 3 if necessary, but after that we are generally to the point where we are not effective anymore, more prone to injuries. We are just out of gas. He went through more than that, considerably more than that on the morning he was training....That does worry me.”

Until an investigation happens, the chief says he has no confidence in the training center, and no Watertown firefighter recruit will step foot into the Montour Falls facility.

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