According to Wednesday’s autopsy results, the firefighter from Los Angeles County Fire Department who died fighting a fire in Palos Verdes in January suffered a heart attack and ran out of oxygen. He also had methamphetamine.
Jonathan Flagler (47), was found unconscious in a small bathroom at his Tarapaca St. home on January 6. His oxygen mask was still attached to his face.
Flager’s death was determined by the LA County Coroner’s office to be due to cardiopulmonary arrest from suffocation. It also suggested that drug use may have played a role.
“This is a result of exhausting his compressed air supply while fighting a residential fire,”Juan M. Carillo M.D., deputy medical examiner
Flager had positive results for Covid-19 in the period before his death. “toxicology tests revealed the presence of medications and controlled substances, including methamphetamine.”
“Its effects in this death cannot be excluded,”Carrillo wrote and concluded that Flagler’s death had been an accident.
According to senior officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly, the after-action review by the LA County Fire Department of the fire found many mistakes in the manner it was managed and fought.
According to officials, the review revealed that Flager was left alone in the house after the fire in the bedroom was put out. This is contrary to the training that says firefighters should use the “buddy system” and not leave anyone behind.
“That’s a two way street, though,”One of the officials said so. “It’s not clear whether Flagler objected to being alone inside.”
Flagler was said to have used an axe to search for more flame in the bedroom according to the review.
The Sheriff’s Deputies said that they heard three loud thumps and then saw the fire spreading quickly on one side. The reason for the thumps was not clear.
Officials also discovered that Flagler activated his personal alarm and made an emergency call over his two-way radio. However, other firefighters on the scene did not immediately hear or start to rescue Flagler.
According to one official, other firefighters who were riding on the engine that arrived at the scene saw the emergency signal and relayed it back to the incident commanders when they arrived.
“By that time, many minutes had elapsed,”According to the official, it was evident that the Flagler had been lost amongst the chaos on the scene by the firefighters.
After-action reports also indicated that Flagler was in distress due to recent radio reprogramming.
Recently, a feature that would have previously made loud audible sounds to anyone with a radio at the scene was disabled. It indicated that a distress call had already been sent.
Flagler’s spouse and children plan to sue LA County for the errors they claim were made in managing the fire.
“Our lawsuit will establish that the tragic death of Los Angeles County Firefighter Jonathan Flagler was caused when on-scene commanders failed to keep track of the firefighters inside the burning residence, maintain radio contact with those firefighters, and promptly rescue Jonathan,” said Thomas J. Johnston, attorney for the Flagler family.
“The autopsy concluded Jonathan died because he suffered a heart attack when he ran out of air, and there were no other conditions related to that immediate cause of death,” Johnston said in a statement.
“He is and always will be my best friend,”Jenny Flagler, Flagler’s widow, spoke at his funeral.
“There will continually be a hole in my heart that will never fully heal. John was my soul mate, plain and simple,”She spoke.
“It takes some people decades to find the person they’re meant to be with. It takes some several tries to find them, and some never do. I am one of the lucky few that found him on the first try. All it took was one date, and I knew he was the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.”
LA County Fire Department refused to comment on the Coroner’s findings and said it was still reviewing the report. The after-action review was not made public by a spokesperson.
“Firefighter Flagler’s sacrifice and memory will not be forgotten; he remains a respected fallen hero of our Fire Department and County family,”According to the Department.