The estate of Kevin Bell, a Hartford firefighter who died while battling a fire in October 2014, has filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the city of Hartford, citing problems with fire department equipment and a lack of training, along with other complaints.
The 48-year-old Bell was battling a house fire on Blue Hills Avenue on Oct. 7, 2014 when he got trapped in the burning building and died of asphyxiation.
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday morning at Superior Court in Hartford and Bell's family members held a news conference with their attorney, Paul Levin, and said Bell should not have died in that fire.
The lawsuit mentions problems with firefighting equipment and says Bell went into the fire with a lieutenant, but the lieutenant left him behind when their air pack alarms started going off.
It also says a "mayday" call that the lieutenant lost contact with Bell was ignored and more than eight minutes passed before a rescue team went into the building to find him. By the time, the team found Bell, he was out of air and in apparent cardiac arrest.
"I don't know why my husband was left alone," Bell's wife, Wayatte Bell, said. "He always said to me, 'It's two in, it's two out."
She said that morning had started as any other.
When their daughter delivered coffee to her father, Bell called his wife to say he was happy she had visited, then pledged to call again at dinnertime. He never had the chance to make that call.
Instead, Wayatte Bell, received a call to go to Saint Francis Hospital because Kevin was in a fire.
"That was it. My husband's gone," she said. "Our world crashed that day. Our lives have never been the same. Kevin loved his job as a Hartford firefighter. He felt he made it -- he felt his community made it -- when he got that job."
The city of Hartford released a statement in response to the suit.
"This is an extremely sensitive situation. We’re talking about the tragic death of one of our own firefighters; a member of the Hartford community who grew up here and many people knew and loved. Our hearts go out to Kevin’s family who has suffered an enormous loss. We have not reviewed the lawsuit entirely and cannot comment on pending litigation. Given our close working relationship with the Fire Department we may consider bringing in independent counsel," the statement says.
Wayatte Statham-Bell said so much happened in the last year that her husband has not been there to experience with her, including the pregnancy of their daughter, who is expecting a baby boy.
It would have been Kevin Bell's first grandson.
"It's not right. ... Kevin should not not be here right now. ... We should be ready for our grandson," Wayatte Bell said.
After the fire, the low-air alarm on Bells breathing tank failed a test, but Hartford officials said the alarm activated during the fire.A federal investigation found that Bell was running low on oxygen.
"You don't send firefighters into a building that is burning, smoke filled, with faulty equipment," Levin said.
Bell served the Hartford Fire Department from his days as a recruit in 2008 and worked at companies 11, 14 and 16, according to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation.