Autopsy report on firefighters says hose burned in two
By Mark Wineka
Final autopsy reports for Victor Isler and Justin Monroe, the firefighters who died in the March 7 Salisbury Millwork fire, say the hose the men were manning that day burned in two.
But Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell said Thursday his department thinks some kind of mechanical failure happened first that caused the men’s hose to lose water pressure and place them in peril.
Fire could have burned through the hose later, he added.
“We don’t know for sure,” he said. “For some reason, they lost pressure in the building.”
Fire burning through a hose while a team was on it would be unusual, Parnell said.
As for that being the reason the men were trapped in the building, he added, “that’s not what our report is going to show.”
Parnell has not seen the final autopsy reports, which the Post received Thursday from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill.
Both men died from “excessive heat exposure,” the autopsies said.
Problems with Isler and Monroe’s hose match with previously released fire channel recordings when a firefighter found the hose they had been using.
“I’m on the hoseline,” he said, “but the hoseline is dead.”
Several reports are pending on the March 7 fire. The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have conducted investigations with recommendations to come.
The city also plans to appoint a panel of fire experts to review the incident. Parnell said he met Thursday with City Manager David Treme about the panel, and he expected to name its members in coming weeks.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the $2 million fire started in a void or attic-type space between a basement drop ceiling and the office floor above it.
What caused the fire has not been determined, but the federal investigators concluded it was not a case of arson or any other criminal activity.
A narrative with the autopsy report on Monroe says he “and two other firefighters were towards the first-floor center of the building when the hose they were manning burned in two.”
“Rescue workers were able to retrieve the two other firefighters from the building but were unable to find (Monroe) due to smoke and flames,” the report adds.
Monroe’s body was later recovered at 11 a.m., and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Isler and Capt. Rick Barkley were on the same hose with Monroe.
Rapid intervention teams were able to recover Barkley and Isler after a mayday call went out.
The autopsy report says resuscitative measures started at the scene for Isler, and they continued during his transport to the Emergency Department at Rowan Regional Medical Center but “to no avail.”
Isler was pronounced dead at 10:21 a.m. at the hospital.
Barkley stayed overnight at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where he was treated for first- and second-degree burns before being released.
The autopsies on Isler and Monroe were conducted March 10 at the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s office in Charlotte.
The final reports say smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning were not factors in the men’s deaths. Preliminary autopsy information released earlier said carbon monoxide poisoning secondary to the fire could have contributed.
Isler, 40, had multiple areas of radiant thermal injuries while Monroe, 19, had “extensive thermal injury,” according to the reports. The autopsy for Isler said he also showed “significant pulmonary congestion and edema, especially of the right lung.”
Isler, a former emergency medical technician with the New York Fire Department, had several tattoos, including some that paid tribute to the firefighters lost during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
On his lower left leg, he carried an American flag tattoo that said, “FDNY 9-11-01” and “We Will Always Remember.”
Isler also wore a metal bracelet on his left wrist that said “343 Brothers Not Forgotten, FDNY 9-11-01.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@ salisburypost.com.