A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against two Reno firefighters, with one of them also facing a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge, after they allegedly ran a red light and killed a woman in 2019.
Firefighter Rosa Myers was driving a fire ladder truck when she made an illegal left turn and ran over 63-year-old Charlene McMaster, who was walking at a crosswalk, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to the criminal charge against Myers, McMaster’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Firefighter Collin Cavanagh, the Reno Fire Department and the City of Reno.
What happened one year ago?
The lawsuit’s complaint details what’s alleged to have occurred the day of the crash.
On Oct. 19, 2019 at approximately 6:55 a.m., firefighters Myers and Cavanagh were at the fire station located on the corner of East 4th Street and Valley Road.
Myers and Cavanagh were refueling their truck. To do so, they had to drive off the property and go to the back of the station, which the complaint states is a common task for firefighters.
Myers, who was driving, had to make three left turns to refuel the truck – one to get out of the station, another to turn at the adjacent intersection and a third left turn to get to the back of the station. Cavanagh was steering the rear.
As they were leaving the station, they immediately encountered a red light, the lawsuit said.
Myers did not turn on the truck’s emergency lights, sirens or activate the “pre-empt” button – which controls the intersection’s traffic signals in order to allow firetrucks to safely exit the station, according to the lawsuit complaint.
Meanwhile, McMaster was walking in the crosswalk and had the right of way, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims that McMaster walked about “25% of the multilane road” when Myers hit her with the firetruck.
McMaster was run over by wheels on all three of the truck’s axels, and Myers completed the first left turn before stopping the truck, the lawsuit said.
Myers called for emergency assistance on her radio at approximately 6:55 a.m., according to the complaint.
Other allegations from the lawsuit
“[Myers and Cavanagh] failed to follow protocols, were either not vigilant enough and failed to employ due diligence to become aware of their surroundings, or they simply did not even bother to look at the road while driving into it and turning,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit further alleges that the City of Reno and Reno Fire Department also failed to adequately train and supervise Myers and Cavanagh.
Orrin Johnson, Myers’ attorney, declined to comment, stating that it is still early in the investigation.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Major Accident Investigation Team has completed its investigation, and the investigation findings have been turned over to the Sparks City Attorney, said WCSO’s Public Information Officer Sarah Johns. She didn’t provide comment on the findings, stating that the information will be released when the court approves for the case files to be released to the public.
Criminal charges have not been filed again Cavanagh.
According to court records, Myers’ arraignment hearing scheduled for Dec. 9 was cancelled. Another date has not yet been set.
RFD Fire Chief Dave Cochran also declined to comment at this time. However, Cochran gave a statement about the incident hours after it took place.
“I am deeply saddened knowing that our community has been devastated by this tragic accident. The Reno Fire Department in particular is feeling a tremendous impact and loss. No words can describe how sorry I am for those who have been affected, and I offer my heartfelt condolences,” he said, “At a time like this you may feel concerns about safety, but rest assured, the men and women of the Reno Fire Department remain committed to protecting and serving this community we call home.”
This story was amended to clarify WCSO’s response.
Kristin Oh is a public safety reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 775-420-1285. Please help support her work by subscribing.