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Firefighter Faces Dismissal Over Car Crash Video

Firefighter Faces Dismissal Over Car Crash Video

YouTube Video Capture

Atlanta Journal Constitution via YellowBrix

October 30, 2010

ATLANTA – An investigation of video taken of a Griffin woman just moments after she was killed in a car accident will continue in hopes of identifying the second voice captured during the recording, officials said Friday. Related

A Spalding County firefighter was notified Thursday that he will be terminated for using his cell phone camera to record the image of Dayna Kempson-Schacht, dead and still in her crumpled car. The video of the July 17 crash was posted on the Internet and it went viral, eventually making it to her father’s computer.

The recording allegedly picked up the shock and other comments from firefighter Terrance Reid and another person when they came upon the car shortly after it slammed in to a tree along U.S. 19-41 outside Griffin.

Interim county manager Tim Whalen said in a statement Thursday that Reid would be fired for violating two county policies — lying to his supervisor and to the Board of Commissioner’s investigator, and engaging in conduct unbecoming.

“If you’re going to lie to the people you work for, you’re pretty much untrustworthy,” said the woman’s father, Jeff Kempson, on Thursday. “His conduct unbecoming pretty much speaks for itself.”

County policy allows Reid five days to respond to the firing. If he chooses to do so, the county has five days to answer.

Whalen said it was “clear and obvious” that Reid “recklessly disregarded the humanity of Ms. [Dayna] Kempson-Schacht and the people he was obligated to serve” when he recorded images of her dead and still in the car… Although it does not appear that Mr. Reid intended to cause harm with his actions, his egregious conduct has created grave negative feelings towards all Spalding County firefighters and has eroded the public’s confidence in the department and in Spalding County."

Reid’s lawyer could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.

The victim’s father said he is satisfied with the decision as it concerns Reid.

“As far as he’s concerned I do think it’s enough,” Kempson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“We’d like to know who else was involved,” he added.

Interim assistant county manager Virginia C.S. Martin said that is one reason for leaving the investigation open; to find out who else was involved with getting the public into public view.

Kempson said Reid later showed the video to other firefighters and a third party eventually posted it on YouTube.com. Then the video went viral. Kempson found out from his brother-in-law and notified the fire department.

Kempson told WSB Radio his wife broke down in tears when she learned of the county’s decision.

“This has devastated her,” he said.

An Internet search Thursday just using Kempson-Schacht’s name turned up thousands of results.

But the video of the wreck has been removed from YouTube.com, where a message states that the content violated the site’s terms of service.

The decision to fire Reid was made even though county officials and the Atlanta lawyer hired to conduct the investigation had not seen the video. Reid’s lawyer, Mike Kendall — commenting Thursday before the decision to fire his client was made — said that he had not seen the recording, either.

Kempson said county officials asked to see the recording the day after he lodged the complaint about Reid.

“I told them I wouldn’t without my attorney’s consent," Kempson said. "When they found out I had an attorney, they wouldn’t speak to me. They said they would only talk to my attorney.”

Martin, an attorney, said the rules governing lawyers prevented her from continuing her conversation with Kempson if he had hired counsel. Martin said she and the Atlanta lawyer hired to investigate the allegations made several attempts to reach Kempson’s lawyers but were not successful.

Whalen said in the statement that Reid repeatedly made “misleading and false statements” to his supervisor and to the county’s investigator, attorney Christopher Balch, “regarding who he shared the video with and who he talked to about its existence. Lying will not be tolerated by the county from any of its employees and is grounds for Mr. Reid’s termination.”

Whalen also noted that the county prohibits firefighters from using their cell phones while on duty without a supervisor’s permission. But he also said Balch learned the policy had been interpreted differently and staff had not been trained sufficiently, so that could not be used as grounds for firing Reid.


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