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New report details failures that contributed to death of Philly firefighter

Lt. Joyce Craig was Philadelphia’s first female firefighter to die in the line of duty.
Lt. Joyce Craig died while battling a fire in West Oak Lane on Dec. 9, 2014. A new report said equipment failures contributed to her death. Credit: Provided

A new federal report on the 2014 death of Philadelphia Firefighter Joyce Craig in a basement blaze showed that miscommunication about the seriousness of the fire, in a addition to flawed safety equipment, contributed to her death.

The exact cause of the Craig's Dec. 9 death has long been a subject of speculation. What is known is that she died from smoke inhalation while battling the blaze in West Oak, on the 1600 block of Middleton Street.

“Can't breathe, I can't breathe,” Lt. Craig radioed from the basement of the burning home at 3:06 a.m., while fellow firefighters unsuccessfully searched for her, the report found. 

Craig, 37, was Philadelphia’s first female firefighter to die in the line of duty.

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“Before she could be located, her Buddy Breather hoseline burnt through and she lost her available air,” according to the report, released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The report found that Craig died after getting lost and running out of air.

Craig, who was working that day to earn overtime pay to help buy her children Christmas gifts, was found wearing an oxygen mask with an empty air tank.

According to the report, miscommunication worsened the situation.

The report states that at 2:53 a.m. that morning, Craig’s arriving Engine 73 advised other firefighters to “reduce speed” because no flames were visible and the fire was deemed to be less serious.

Craig's family is suing the fire equipment manufacturer. Attorneys for the family said the report appears to support their claims that Craig's death was preventable.

“Craig … literally went into the heat of battle without the proper resources to come out alive,” said attorney David L. Kwass. “This was a totally foreseeable and preventable tragedy.  We now know and will demonstrate at trial that Firefighter Craig never stood a chance at surviving that fire because her equipment — from her personal protective suit to her air tank system — was inadequate.”

Read the full report here.