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San Francisco district attorney investigating possible firefighter cover-up

The DUI case of a firefighter named Michael Quinn, who crashed his ladder truck into a motorcyclist in the South of Market in June, is under investigation by the San Francisco district attorney. He is investigating whether fellow firefighters tried to cover for Michael Quinn or not.

Alex Bastian, spokesman of the district attorney would say, “This is not your run-of-the-mill DUI investigation,” when asked about the chances that Quinn’s fellows attempted to cover up the circumstances of the collision.

According to the Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, her office is considering disciplinary action against an unspecified number of firefighters who were doing their duty the night of the crash. She said, “We are looking at if things could have gone differently, or if different decisions could have been made”.

On 29th of June, a 23-year veteran of the department, Quinn, was driving a Station 1 ladder truck when he crossed a red light at high speed at Fifth and Howard streets on his way to what turned out to be a false alarm. The truck crashed into a motorcyclist, throwing the rider into a fire hydrant and seriously harming him. He fled from the accident spot.

The police reached at the accident spot after almost 40 minutes. Quinn didn’t return at Station 1 a few blocks down Howard Street for several hours.

According to the sources, police officers got security-camera footage that shows Quinn drinking water at the Chieftain Irish Pub at Fifth and Howard for trying to sober up before returning to the station. After police found him at the station, his BAC level limit was 0.13 percent which is higher than the legal limit for driving, which is 0.08 percent. The Fire Department has a zero-tolerance policy for on-duty drinking.

Quinn was taken into custody on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and hit-and-run, but he is not charged yet. The D.A.’s office said that the investigation is not complete.

According to the Fire Department sources, no fewer than twenty one firefighters, paramedics and others who were on duty the night of the accident have been interviewed by police officers. Other than Quinn, 2 firefighters may face disciplinary action as well.

Sources showed that 1 firefighter who may face legal problems denied being at the Chieftain with Quinn but showed up on security-camera footage talking to him in the bar.

Surveillance camera footage also opposed the statement of a department higher-up who said Quinn’s ladder truck had nearly cleared the intersection safely before the accident.
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Sources said that the light was red before Quinn reached the intersection but he never slowed down the truck.

The chief confirmed that Quinn, who had been on administrative leave without pay since the accident submitted his resignation on 1st of November just to avoid a formal dismissal hearing that had been scheduled for that day.

On Friday, Quinn’s lawyer told that he will come to discuss the case, but he never came.

Hayes-White said that she had found no proof of a conspiracy within the department to cover up the accident circumstances.
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Like her, Firefighters Union President Tom O’Connor rejected the view of an attempted cover-up. He said, “Everybody on duty that night was making every effort possible to assist the police with their investigation.
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In fact, they called the police once (Quinn) returned to the station”.

Hayes-White told that after the inquiry last week, she spoke to District Attorney George Gascón, who told her that prosecutors “are getting close” to make a decision on whether to file charges or not.

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