Families of Scott Deem, Brad Phipps file lawsuit against makers of firefighter device

Scott Deem died, Brad Phipps injured in May 2017 fire

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group, Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The families of two San Antonio  firefighters have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of a device that might have saved one of the men and prevented injuries to another, according to a law firm.

The lawsuit also names the owner of Spartan Box Gym for allegedly setting the fatal fire at his business.

Scott Patrick Deem died in May 2017 while fighting the fire.

Family attorney Rob Ammons said Deem's life could have been saved if the Personal Alert Safety System, or PASS, device attached to his suit, signaled an alarm as intended, which would have alerted other firefighters of Deem's location when he became trapped inside the burning structure, according to a news release. 

Mark Long, the attorney representing Brad Phipps, said Phipps' PASS device also failed in the fire. Phipps suffered life-threatening burn injuries.

"These safety devices are able to sense movement, or lack thereof, and activate a 75- to 95-decibel alarm as well as flashing lights to help guide rescue personnel to their location," Ammons said.  "Ultimately, the failure of the PASS device to sound its audible alarm prevented the rescue team from promptly locating and rescuing the trapped firefighters."

Another firefighter, Robert Vasquez, survived because his PASS device worked properly, Ammons added.

The State Fire Marshal's Office and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency, issued reports following the fire. 

Both reports said Deem's gear was too badly damaged to test, although the federal report said the PASS devices on Phipps' and Vasquez's gear functioned.

A San Antonio Fire Department spokesman said the city's firefighters continue to use the same gear mentioned in the lawsuit.

The suit is filed against Scott Technologies Inc., also known as Scott Safety, and the gym owner.

Deem is survived by his wife and three children.
 

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