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Parents of Apopka firefighter killed on duty ask the city for more funding to improve safety

APOPKA, Fla. — The family of an Apopka firefighter who died from a work-related accident says their loved one’s death could have been prevented.

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25-year-old Austin Duran died in July after a trailer filled with sand fell on him.

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In speaking with firefighters over the past two months, Austin’s father Mike says he’s learned the department is understaffed and undertrained.

He was at Apopka City Hall Wednesday asking city leaders to make changes so no other family has to go through what his has.

“We go to the cemetery and we tell Austin, ‘we’re doing this for you. We’re doing this so no one else is gonna have that happen to him,’” Austin’s mother Gail said during Wednesday’s Apopka City Council meeting.

Gail and Mike both say they never thought they would be the ones fighting for their son, but at Wednesday’s meeting, they did just that.

“Ask yourself, how many more lives must be lost before real change,” Duran asked the council. “If you ask me, one is too many.”

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Duran says his son’s death has revealed major training discrepancies within the department.

“I know Austin is not familiar with working with trailers, so even the equipment he was working on, I was confused why he was even messing with something like this,” Duran said.

The family is now asking the city to boost its budget, with a focus on first-responder safety.

For starters, Mike wants at least three people on each truck, the open EMS Assistant position filled, a dedicated health and safety chief, a training chief, and a quality assurance specialist.

Mike shared with WFTV a letter Austin wrote to the city last year in which he said he felt rookies like himself were afraid to ask for help.

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In the letter, Duran said the department could benefit from a culture change, more training resources, and a mentor program.

On Wednesday, Duran’s parents told the council that if those changes were implemented more than a year ago, Austin might still be alive today.

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