Police found open cans of beer rolling around the cab of an overturned North Bangor Fire Co. truck and charged a 20-year-old assistant fire chief with being drunk behind the wheel as he drove the rig home after a parade. Now, one of the volunteer firefighters injured in the July 2010 crash has sued his colleagues, the fire company and Upper Mount Bethel Township.
Stuart Mintz and his wife, Paula, allege it had become a custom for firefighters to drink while operating fire company equipment and that township and fire company officials did nothing for years to stop it.
In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District court in Allentown, Mintz claims he suffered severe and permanent injuries in the crash. He alleges the township's failure to adopt policies that would have prevented the wreck violated his constitutional rights.
The suit, which seeks more than $150,000 in damages, was originally filed in Northampton County Court, but was moved to federal court at the request of the township's attorney because it involves civil rights issues. Mintz is represented by attorneys James Pfeiffer, Travis Savoia and Andrew Gould of Easton.
In addition to the township and fire company, Chief Frederick Farleigh, President Christopher Louszko, Assistant Chief Zachary Romano and township Supervisor Chairman Edward Nelson are named as defendants. Their attorneys did not immediately return calls Tuesday.
Romano, who was 20 and behind the wheel when the tanker truck rolled over in Plainfield Township, was charged with drunken driving. Police alleged he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent, eight times the limit for drivers under the legal drinking age of 21.
Because none of Romano's charges rose above a misdemeanor and he was a first-time offender, Romano, now 23, could qualify for the accelerated rehabilitative disposition program, which would allow his record to be expunged. State court files contain no record of how Romano's charges were resolved.
According to the lawsuit, Romano was drinking at the fire company July 10, 2010, as firefighters prepared the company's engines to appear in the Tatamy Fireman's Parade. Mintz was assigned to the tanker truck that Romano drove to the parade, the suit says.
On the way to the parade, Romano stopped at a beer distributor in Stockertown, where he purchased a 30-pack of light beer, the lawsuit claims. Romano then drank beer as he drove the truck to the parade, the lawsuit says.
After the parade, the firefighters attended a celebration at Tatamy Fire Station, where Romano continued to consume alcohol, the suit says.
Romano was driving the tanker truck back to North Bangor Fire Co. with Mintz as a passenger when it overturned about 9:15 p.m. on Kesslersville Road after Romano lost control on a curve.
Mintz suffered fractured vertebrae, a concussion, a torn rotator cuff and other injuries, which the suit claims have caused him to suffer physical and mental disabilities, lost wages and substantial medical costs. His wife claims the injuries have caused her the loss of his services and partnership.
Written by The Morning Call
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