Firefighters union calls on chief to step down over safety issues

Firefighters union calls on chief to step down over safety issues
Fire Chief Manuel Neves (Image: Honolulu Fire Department)
Fire Chief Manuel Neves (Image: Honolulu Fire Department)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The union for Honolulu firefighters is calling for Fire Chief Manuel Neves to step down following recent safety concerns.

The call comes as new video of a helicopter rescue at Diamond Head that left a firefighter injured clearly shows a rescue basket hitting a utility pole seconds before the firefighter fell from it.

Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, said he spoke to the injured firefighter just hours after the frightening 30-foot-fall from the basket.

"His wrist was really messed up," Lee said. "He was talking about broken ribs and some broken bones in his back. He did mention that he felt a jot which is what he felt threw him out of the chopper."

This accident came just three months after another fire fighter, Cliff Rigsbee, died in a rough water training accident off Waikiki.

Lee said in the wake of the accidents, HFD has been unresponsive and hasn't acted quickly to address safety concerns.

"We weren't getting any response from HFD as far as trying to see what they were going to do to immediately to prevent our guys from getting injured," Lee said. "They want to wait for the official report to come out. I have a real problem with the chief's priorities. If you look at the Jet Ski (accident) and you look at the helicopter incident there are things that you can figure out right away to at least start to make some changes and not just wait for an official report."

A spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department declined to comment on Lee's concerns Thursday.

Fire Capt. David Jenkins said the chief will have a news conference Friday to address the issue.

In a statement Thursday, Neves said HFD "places the public and its personnel's safety at the highest of priorities."

He also said, "When an incident occurs in which a firefighter is injured, the HFD investigates and reviews its operational, safety and training procedures. Currently, the HFD is in the process of investigating the recent unfortunate incidents and will take appropriate actions to address any issues that may have contributed to the events."

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