Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lawsuit Against Modesto Firefighter Clowns For Child Injuries No Laughing Matter

Modesto firefighter clowns promote fire prevention.
Photo credit: Modesto Local 1289

Suit Against Calif. Firefighter Clowns No Laughing Matter

April 14--Modesto is facing potential legal trouble after one of its firefighters reportedly tripped and fell on a third-grader and broke her arm during a Fire Department safety event called the Clown Program, in which firefighters dress up as clowns and superheroes as they teach schoolchildren such basics as when to call 911 and how to get out of a burning house.

The incident happened Oct. 8 at Sonoma Elementary School, according to a claim filed this month against Modesto by the San Francisco-based law office of Tanya Gomerman. The firm represents third-grader Camila Gomez and her family.

The claim states firefighter Rod Riley and fire engineer Tommy Dick were playing with a ball against a wall as students watched. "Rod Riley was attempting to catch the ball and tripped over this group of students, causing him to fall on top of Camila Gomez," the claim states.

Camila sustained fractures in her right arm that required extensive medical treatment, including two surgeries, according to the claim. "Miss Gomez continues to have pain in her arm, has two large scars, and continues to suffer from emotional distress over the traumatic incident," Gomerman said in an email.

The claim seeks at least $25,000 from the city for the girl's injuries.

Fire Chief Sean Slamon said Riley was not in costume because he was the DJ for the program, while Dick was dressed as a clown. Firefighters use music to reinforce the safety lessons they teach the children, who are kindergartners to third-graders.

Slamon declined to comment about the incident because of the claim but in an email said he once had been a clown in the safety program and it was among the most rewarding experiences in his career. He said the Clown Program educates more than 5,000 children each year.

"This is the best and most effective public education program we deliver," he said in the email. "The firefighters that are involved ... dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort every year to develop, prepare for, and present these safety programs. ... I have no doubt this program has saved lives and prevented injuries."

Gomerman also filed a claim against Modesto City Schools seeking at least $25,000 and alleging Sonoma Elementary staff failed to provide adequate supervision during the event.

Source; Kevin Valine, Copyright 2016 - The Modesto Bee

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