Explorations in Policing, Faith and Life (With a hint of humor, product reviews, news and whatever catches my attention)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Dead Boston Fire Fighters found to have alcohol and cocaine in their systems

From the Boston Globe

Autopsies find alcohol, some cocaine, 2 officials say

New details on firefighters killed in blaze

By Jonathan Saltzman and Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | October 4, 2007

One of two Boston firefighters who died fighting a fire in a Chinese restaurant in late August was legally intoxicated at the time, and the other had cocaine in his system, two officials said yesterday.

A source who was briefed by a person with knowledge of the autopsies of Paul J. Cahill and Warren J. Payne told the Globe that one firefighter had a blood-alcohol level higher than .08, the level at which someone is too drunk to drive legally in Massachusetts. The other firefighter had traces of cocaine in his system, the source said.

A government official briefed on the findings of the state medical examiner's office said Cahill registered a blood-alcohol level of .27 in the autopsy, which would have placed him at more than three times the legal limit, while Payne had cocaine in his system.

Neither official was specific about the amount of cocaine found in the firefighter.

The two officials were briefed on the autopsy results separately. They spoke separately to the Globe on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The two veteran firefighters were the first members of the Boston Fire Department to die in the line of duty since 1994. Thousands of white-gloved firefighters from across the country attended their funerals last month, and Governor Deval Patrick and Senator John F. Kerry were among those who paid tribute to two men praised as heroes.

Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, said the department had not received any reports on the district attorney's investigation.

"Right now, just because of the actions today, we just really want to really reach out to the two families of the two firefighters and let them know that we're still thinking of them and we're here for them," he said.

Yesterday afternoon, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Merita Hopkins barred WHDH-TV (Channel 7) from reporting on findings from the autopsies, saying autopsy results are exempt from disclosure under state public records law and can only be released with permission from next of kin. The station informed Hopkins that it would appeal the ruling to a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court today, the judge's clerk said.

The Boston firefighters' union sought the injunction from the judge after learning yesterday morning that the television station intended to report on the autopsy findings.

Paul Hynes, the lawyer for the union, said that the families of Cahill and Payne had not seen the autopsy results and that it would pain them to learn about the findings on television. He also said that the law is unambiguous and that WHDH had to have broken it to obtain the findings.

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