APOPKA, Fla. — Two people have resigned from the safety committee meant to investigate the death of Apopka firefighter Austin Duran.
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At least one of those committee members says the pushback they received on their investigation gave him no choice but to step down.
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A trailer filled with sand fell on top of Duran back in late June and he died from his injuries a month later. A report released in September detailed a lack of training within the fire department.
Duran’s father, Mike, has been involved in the investigation from the beginning. He says he’s devastated by the the news of the resignations from the safety committee looking into his son’s death
Duran says he feels like he was misled. He’s addressed city officials several times, fighting for changes within the Apopka Fire Department.
Now, Duran says he feels like he has to start over.
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“If they could just do what the city should be doing, which is protecting their fire people, protecting their citizens, then I could get out of this hole that they put me in,” Duran said. “I want out.”
Since his son’s death, Duran says that hole only seems to be getting deeper in some ways.
The two people who resigned from the “Austin Duran Safety Initiative” Committee were firefighters themselves.
In a letter to the City of Apopka, Lt. Alex Klepper- who is also the fire union president- said “ever since this committee has started looking into Austin’s accident, we have been met with pushback, to the point that fire administration appears to be bending over backward to exclude us, its own safety committee, from doing a simple post-incident critique.”
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“Their hands are being tied so that they can’t investigate anything to find out what led up to it,” Duran said. “Most importantly, what is going to prevent this from happening again?”
A report by the State Fire Marshal’s office showed the trailer that crushed Austin Duran was not properly maintained, and that he should not have been working on it.
In the months following his son’s death, Mike Duran fought the city to put a greater emphasis on fire department safety.
That’s when the investigations were launched, and the committee was revamped.
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In his letter, Lt. Klepper went on to share his concern with the outside group, Gannon Emergency Services, which the city hired to investigate Austin Duran’s death.
“They have even said, when asked, ‘we are not specifically investigating the accident,’” Lt. Klepper wrote about Gannon in his letter to the city.
Mike Duran says he is also confused about what the committee is supposed to be doing.
“The city is paying for it. That’s tax-payer dollars,” Duran said. “They have a right to know, and I think our family has a right to know.”
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Officials with the Apopka Fire Department referred all questions to City Attorney Michael Rodriguez.
Rodriquez responded by saying the city does not comment on litigation matters. However, it’s not clear at this point what, if any, legal action has been taken.
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