No citations issued for fire academy in death of Watertown firefighter

Peyton Morse
Peyton Morse(Steve Sturtz)
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 4:24 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - One investigation into the death of Watertown firefighter Peyton Morse is complete and it lets the state off the hook.

No citations for the New York State Academy of Fire Science and Watertown’s fire chief calls that “disgusting and sickening.”

On March 3, Morse experienced a medical emergency at the academy in Montour Falls. He was crawling through small tubes while wearing turnout gear and a breathing apparatus when he couldn’t breathe and called out for help.

Because an ambulance wasn’t available, Morse was taken to a hospital in a state-owned van. Morse remained in a coma and died 9 days later.

Watertown Fire Chief Matt Timerman confirms he spoke with investigators from the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, or PESH, which investigates on-the-job injuries and deaths when it involves a public worker.

While he will get the full report next week, Timerman says during a phone call this week, investigators explained no citations will be given to the state fire academy - essentially saying the academy did nothing wrong.

“To say I’m disappointed is a tremendous understatement. These results are disgusting and sickening,” said Timerman.

He added that the investigation certainly didn’t leave him feeling that no stone was left unturned. Timerman feels PESH really didn’t want to pursue investigating New York state.

In interviews over the past few months, Timerman and Morse’s parents have been critical of the investigation and shared that they feared a coverup and that the training environment was one of hazing, bullying and recruits are pushed too far.

Timerman also points out there’s proof Morse’s air pack was functioning okay and that Morse’s autopsy showed the firefighter was a healthy 21-year-old with no health or heart issues.

While no citations will be issued to the state fire academy, 2 citations will be given to the city fire department. Timerman says the citations deal with paperwork errors and had no bearing on Morse’s death.

We reached out to PESH for comment on the thoroughness of the investigation. Here’s what it said in an email:

“After a thorough investigation, no violations were issued by the New York State Department of Labor to the New York State Fire Academy in Montour Falls or the City of Watertown in connection to the death of Peyton Morse.”

State police are also investigating the death.

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