Fire victim’s family doesn’t buy county’s explanation

8 On Your Side

Amber Addison is frustrated and upset.  

In November, her aunt, 76-year old Loretta Pickard, died in a house fire in North Lakeland. 

She was on the phone with 911 as firefighters arrived. She was pleading for help, but no one came.

Polk County Fire Rescue Captain James Williams has been under the microscope since the incidentl, in part, due to a video he took at the scene and then posted on Snap Chat.

That lapse in judgement resulted in a suspension.  

Chief Anthony Stravino addressed the issue in a news conference on Wednesday morning.  

“Horrible judgement,” said Chief Stravino. “Horrible judgement. “

He maintains Captain Williams and another firefighter tried to make entry into the home and were singed by the heat. The county provided a report on one of the injuries.  

“They couldn’t make entry. They couldn’t make entry and it’s horrible,” said Chief Stravino. “It’s a horrible situation. Unfortuantely, I’ve been around some fire deaths in my career. And there’s nothing good and nothing I can say to make that better.”

But if Williams was singed, Addison wonders where is the proof?  

“Where’s the jacket?  Show me the injury,” said Addison.  “He Snap Chatted the fire, he couldn’t snap chat his arm?”

Deputy County Manager Joe Halman Jr. was also at the news conference and questioned media motivation in this case. He wonders if it has anything to do with the fact Captain Williams is black.  

“It’s interesting that the captain that you pointed out in this particular case is African American,” said Halman. “Everything that you have made allegations about is incorrect.”

County Commssion Chairman George Lindsey was also present at the news conference and says once the internal sheriff’s office and fire marshals investigations are complete, he and other commissioners will decide what if any action should be taken.  

“Everybody from the highest level throughout the organization is going to be held accountable and responsible for the circumstances,” said Lindsey.

Addison hopes that is the case.  

She hopes the other firefighters who were at her aunt’s house that November night will step forward with information.  

“And I plead to all that were on the scene and all that know about this. Please be [a] hero. Please come out. Please say what you know about the wrong doing,” said Addison.  “Please. We’re begging you. Don’t let this happen again. “

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