Firefighters may boycott serving with the crash rescue team during the upcoming Detroit Grand Prix citing their collective disappointment after a first responder suffered serious injuries while volunteering in 2015.
FOX 2 News reports Joel Barthlow was helping a driver who had been involved in a crash when another driver struck him. His injuries included broken ribs, a collapsed lung and damage to his spleen and kidney. Now — with his career over — he and his family are being told the racecar organizations involved won’t help with his medical expenses.
The Southfield Fire Fighters Union Local 1029 has submitted a resolution, demanding the Detroit Grand Prix and the International Motor Sports Association provide medical, disability and liability insurance coverage for volunteers in the event a tragedy like Barthlow’s unfolds during this year’s race, according to FOX 2.
The union’s president contends firefighters provide a valuable service, and that race organizers couldn’t hold events like the Grand Prix without their willingness to serve.
“Without professional firefighters out there doing this, big racing companies wouldn’t be able to have the races because they wouldn’t have us there,” Firefighter Rob Scott, president of the Southfield Fire Fighters Union Local 1029 tells FOX 2.
If medical, disability and liability insurance aren’t offered; Scott says he’s suggesting firefighters don’t volunteer.
“They could end up like brother Joel is,” he tells FOX 2.
Scott tells FOX 2, when Barthlow entered the hospital, everyone felt he would be covered.
“Once he was taken to the hospital, people from the racing outlet team came down there saw him and his family in the hospital,” Scott tells FOX 2. “He was on life support and basically was told he’d be taken care of. And when Joel actually starting getting better, they turned and ran.”
Barthlow’s attorney addresses the elephant in the room. Did Barthow sign a release limiting event organizers’ liability?
“Joel stood in a line and was told to sign papers to get his race credentials,” Barthlow’s attorney David Zuppke tells FOX 2. “Little did he know … it was actually a legal document.”
Barthlow’s is suing The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), the group that sanctions auto races — including the Detroit Grand Prix.
“IMSA controls the race,” Zuppke tells FOX 2. “IMSA ordered him out on the track. IMSA is in charge of the flags and the warnings. IMSA alone had the right to stop the race.”
FOX 2 received a statement by Bud Denker, the Detroit Grand Prix chairman:
“With ongoing legal action pending between Mr. Barthlow and the insurance company involved, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
FOX 2 reports most everyone who belongs to the state firefighters union is on board with the boycott, but says some Detroit firefighters have applied to volunteer for the Grand Prix Crash Rescue Team. It is unclear if they knew about the boycott beforehand.
This year’s Detroit Grand Prix is scheduled for June 2-4.
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