City, federal reports describe firefighter's horrific death

Federal investigators say Philadelphia's first female firefighter killed in the line of duty died because of training and equipment problems, and Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel will address those findings late Tuesday morning.

Thiel was not commissioner at the time of the tragedy, on Dec. 9, 2014.

Lt. Joyce Craig was killed while battling a wind-whipped fire in the basement of a home in West Oak Lane.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found a hose supplying Craig with oxygen had burned through, and they found problems with how her colleagues responded to her seven emergency distress signals.

It contained never-before-seen pictures of the faulty equipment, including the fire hose that was supposed to connect Craig's air tank to her mask but had a burned out hole. It gave way and she suffocated.

According to the report, her last words were, "Can't breathe. I can't breathe."

The federal study also said a failure to quickly deploy an intervention team contributed to her death.

The city's report says indirect causes of her death include lack of situational awareness, inadequate communications, poor strategy and tactics and an uncoordinated rescue effort.

The fire department says it has made changes as a result.

"Joyce Craig's death was devastating to her family and to the Department," Commissioner Thiel wrote. "We hope the lessons learned from these reports will prevent such tragedies in the future."

The department's statement said it had already found some of the same issues, continuing:

"The Fire Marshal's Office worked for more than a year to compile the Department's internal review. Investigators spent seven days examining the fire scene and interviewed more than 45 people. Their findings echo many conclusions in the NIOSH report regarding training, communication and equipment. Several of these recommendations have been addressed; anticipated resources in the budget for Fiscal Year 2018 would continue that progress.

"Among the recent changes:
-- SCBA/PASS equipment has been updated
-- Battalion Chiefs are now stationed in dispatch center to improve communication during incidents
-- Field Incident Safety Officer positions have been created to improve communication/safety on the fireground
-- Firefighter positions added mid-FY17 will help increase relief factor and allow for more on-duty training
-- FY18 budget proposes 30 additional firefighters and four new dedicated Training Officer positions

Commissioner Thiel met with Joyce Craig's family earlier (Monday) to discuss the reports. Additional meetings are planned with Department leaders and members in the field."

Lawyers representing Craig's estate said the federal report supports the claims in their pending lawsuit that she would've survived if her protective and life-saving equipment functioned properly.

Craig was appointed to the Philadelphia Fire Department on Dec. 8, 2003. She an 11-year veteran and was 37 years old when she was killed, and left behind a 17-year-old son and a daughter, who was just almost two.