GAINESVILLE, Ga -- There are new questions about the safety of a ladder truck in Hall County that collapsed sending three firefighters to the hospital.
The fire marshal says the men fell 40 feet during a training exercise. Two days after the accident, engineers from both the county and the manufacturer inspected the ladder and extension cable to determine what went wrong.
11Alive obtained the Vehicle Identification Number from a source that asked not to be identified. When the county refused to verify the information, 11Alive ran several online searches. The vehicle with the same year, make and model as the truck involved in the accident. A carfax report, also confirmed it was currently owned by someone in Gainesville, Georgia.
After two days of questioning, Hall county did agree to release the VIN confirming concerns it had purchased a truck with a troubled past.
Digging deeper, 11Alive learned the fire truck used to belong to the Bluffton Township Fire District in South Carolina.
According to the vehicle title, Bluffton bought the truck new in 2006. Battalion Chief Robert Payne says they sold the truck back to the manufacturer in Ohio seven years later. In a report to the Beaufort County Deputy Administrator, the fire department "had lost all confidence in the truck" due to its "catastrophic" and "consistent failures." The report says the fire district had several maintenance problems with the vehicle, but the 100 foot aerial ladder was the most "problematic part of the apparatus." It lists six times in four years, that the ladder and/or its extension cables were repaired.
Just three months after Bluffton got rid of the truck, Hall County approved purchasing a used 2006 Sutphen from the manufacturer for $525,000. According to minutes from a Hall county commission meeting, the fire chief assured the board it "would receive a certificate indicating the equipment was back to factory specs." A new truck would have cost $1.25 million.
Even after the accident, Fire Marshal Scott Cagle defended the purchase.
"It was totally refurbished by Sutphen and in fact, if we had the money in the bank today, we would go out and buy the same exact one," said Cagle.
Just how much the county knew about the truck's history is yet unknown. The manufacturer also declined to comment on what efforts were made to rehab the truck before it was resold.