A fire engine responding to an emergency call Friday was involved in a crash that left a motorist dead and critically injured a pregnant pedestrian on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington, fire officials said.
The male driver of one vehicle died at a hospital after being trapped in the wreckage near a stone sign announcing the entrance to the Brookland neighborhood at 12th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE.
The fire engine, a gold sedan and a dark-colored passenger vehicle were involved in the collision about 12:15 p.m. Friday.
Photographs posted on social media showed the gold car so mangled into a pile of metal almost unrecognizable as a vehicle.
The identities of the man who died and of the injured woman were not immediately made public.
Police and fire officials said it appears the fire engine hit the sedan.
The female pedestrian was struck on a sidewalk, authorities said.
It was unclear whether she was hit by the fire engine or by the vehicle struck by the fire engine. It was also unclear when the third vehicle was hit. The person in that car declined medical attention at the scene, officials said.
Before it crashed, Engine 26 had been dispatched for a report of a smell of smoke in a building in the 2300 block of Fourth Street NE, about one mile from the site of the collision, fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said.
One firefighter suffered minor injuries in the crash. D.C. police from the major crash unit took over the investigation. The intersection was closed through early Friday evening.
D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D) whose Ward 5 includes the neighborhood where the collision occurred, visited the scene Friday. “It’s a horrible tragedy,” he said. “My heart goes out to the family of the person who was driving that vehicle.”
McDuffie said he had not been briefed by police or fire investigators and that he and his staff had not been able to learn details about the victims. “It’s a tragic day in Brookland,” he said.
Engine 26 and Truck 15 are quartered in a fire station in the 1300 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE, a block from where the crash occurred, but Maggiolo could not say whether the engine had left from that station or was coming from elsewhere when it answered the call for the reported smell of smoke.
Maggiolo also could not say in which direction the drivers of the private vehicles had been traveling, or whether Engine 26 had its emergency lights and siren activated. Those details, he said, are part of the D.C. police investigation
Firefighters who drive the large engines and trucks must abide by numerous guidelines. They must use sirens and lights to warn other drivers and pedestrians. They also must slow down before going through red lights and stop signs and may exceed the posted speed limit “so long as it does not endanger life or property.”
Friday’s crash is the most serious involving fire apparatus in the District since Aug. 2, when rookie firefighter Dane Smothers Jr. was hit by a ladder truck at the scene of a Capitol Hill fire.
The 28-year-old, who was on his first fire, was near death with a stopped heart after he was struck and has spent months in rehabilitation after surgeries.
A final report on the crash that injured Smothers is nearing completion, a fire department spokesman said Friday.