An off-duty Spokane firefighter involved in a traffic crash that killed three people Saturday had previously served two years in prison for vehicular homicide.
As first reported at spokesmanreview.com, Lt. Dave Batty, 51, was driving a pickup truck that state troopers say rear-ended a van on U.S. Highway 2, the start of a three-car collision that killed three people. No charges have been filed in the crash, which remains under investigation.
Drivers have given voluntary blood samples, said Washington State Patrol spokesman Trooper Jeff Sevigney. Results have not been released, but it does not appear that alcohol was involved.
On Saturday, Trooper Mark Baker of the WSP said that while weather was a factor, the driver of the pickup truck may have been following the van too closely.
Batty has been on medical leave since Aug. 28 for an injury on the job.
Prior to taking leave, he was a lieutenant in charge of firefighter training. That includes training people to drive firetrucks safely.
Batty, who has been with the Fire Department since 1983, was reinstated after he got out of prison in 1995 by then-City Manager Roger Crum, according to previous news articles.
Crum said at the time that Batty had fulfilled all the requirements to get his job back, which included the endorsement of the firefighters union, Local 29.
The city had no policy against hiring convicted felons. Current city policy states that the Fire Department will “evaluate each candidate individually and weigh their experience against standard measures,” said Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.
In September 1992, Batty lost control of his pickup and swerved in front of a Jeep headed south on Highway 2 near Elk, The Spokesman-Review previously reported. The Jeep’s driver, David Cole, 49, of Newport, died at the scene. His passengers, Connie Pierre, 52, of Newport and her 18-year-old son, Steven, were hospitalized with head injuries.
Batty’s blood alcohol level was 0.24 percent, more than twice the legal limit. He suffered minor cuts and bruises.
When he was reinstated, Batty was temporarily assigned to do clerical work. He had to restart firefighter training at the entry level before he could work on a firetruck.
And he had to take weekly drug and alcohol tests and go to counseling for five years at his own expense. Batty was to be fired if he failed a test or missed an appointment.
Within months of returning to the Fire Department, Batty had participated in a number of “Sober Roadways” and “Minors in Prevention” programs throughout the area, Schaeffer said. Batty worked with high school students, inmates and others to help them learn about the impacts of using drugs and alcohol.
Schaeffer said Wednesday that a check of Batty’s records shows no disciplinary actions since his reinstatement.
“He’s had a commendable service record up to this point, to my knowledge,” Schaeffer said.
The firefighter worked his way up to lieutenant. He was recently assigned to the training division at the Fire Department, where he designs simulations that firefighters encounter on the streets and develops training curricula.
Schaeffer said if Batty is charged with a felony for his role in Saturday’s triple-fatal, then the city will become involved because of Batty’s employment with the department.
Batty did not return a message left on his home answering machine.