April 19, 1995 in City

Firefighter Back On The Job After Drunken Driving Accident

Gita Sitaramiah Staff writer
 

A Spokane firefighter who was suspended after his drunken driving ended the life of another man in 1992 once again is fighting fires for the city.

David Batty, 39, was convicted of vehicular homicide in November 1993 and recently was released from a Spokane workrelease facility.

Spokane City Manager Roger Crum said Batty has fulfilled the requirements to get his job back, including getting recommendations from the firefighters union and the department.

“Both the department and Local 29 endorsed his return,” Crum said.

Batty was driving his pickup on the afternoon of Sept. 5, 1992, when he lost control and swerved in front of a Jeep headed south on U.S. Highway 2 near Elk.

The Jeep’s driver, David Cole, was killed in the head-on collision.

After the accident, Batty’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.24 percent - nearly 2 times the legal limit.

The family of the victim is unhappy with the city’s decision to allow Batty to work as a firefighter again.

“The only thing I can say is I wish Spokane the best of luck because if he’s out drinking again, it could happen to someone else’s sibling or father,” said Cole’s daughter, Debbie Harvill of Tampa, Fla. “If I ever see Batty on the street, just keep me away from him.”

The Fire Department decided in September not to fire Batty. He was allowed to work at the Fire Department doing clerical work as part of his work-release program.

The conditions he had to meet, and must continue to meet, include weekly drug and alcohol testing for five years.

Batty, who was a firefighter for 12 years, has said he has turned his life around and is now sober.

“It’s great to be back,” Batty said Tuesday. ‘It’s a gift from God and I’m truly grateful.”

For one year, Batty will be on probation and undergo the training of entry-level firefighters. He will work at several city fire stations.

Batty pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced in November 1993 to two years in prison, but was released from a Spokane work-release facility last month.

The city has no policy against hiring people with felony convictions.

In fact, state law encourages public agencies to hire convicted felons as long as their crimes don’t interfere with their jobs, city officials said.

Candidates for a city firefighter job normally must have a valid driver’s licence. That requirement was waived for Batty because he’s already worked for the fire department.

But Batty, who won’t be eligible for a driver’s license until September, must obtain one as soon as possible, Crum said.

Firefighters aren’t required to drive trucks as part of their jobs. The rank of driver is higher than that of firefighter and requires certification.

Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams was unable to provide Batty’s salary Tuesday. The salary for firefighters ranges from $27,362 to $45,079.


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