Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

In Memory of
Fireman Thomas C. Collier, Jr.
Engine Company 3 (Snorkel 3)
A Platoon
Appointed April 25, 1942
Died July 5, 1970
Died of injuries suffered when
Snorkel 3 overturned at fire.
Lankershim Hotel
710 South Broadway

* * * * * * * * * *

Fireman Thomas C. Collier, Jr.

A-8                                           Los Angeles Herald-Examiner                                   Monday July 6, 1970

Fireman Dies, 2 Hurt in L.A. Snorkel Crash

                                                                                                                                                                                     --Photo by Yuli Nomo

Three firemen, see arrows, lie on the downtown pavement seconds after their 85-foot snorkel fire truck toppled over.  One firefighter was killed, two others were seriously injured in the freak accident while battling a minor blaze on Broadway near 7th Street.  Hundreds of spectators screamed in horror as the boom of the 44-ton truck crashed in the middle of the downtown street Sunday afternoon.



Fire captain's helmet
on asphalt pavement is
mute testimony to freak
mishap.  The snorkel truck
in background over-
turned, bringing death to
one, injury to two others.
Crews took there hours
to right the fallen
fire truck.

The Los Angeles Times




DAILY 10c   

Fire Department's 85-foot aerial unit after toppling on Broadway near 7th St., One fireman died
               and two were injured.
                                                                                         Times photo by Cal Montney             

Fireman Killed, 2
Others Injured as
Snorkel Topples

    A Los Angeles fireman was fatally injured Sunday when the snorkel unit in which he and two other firemen were ridding suddenly toppled at the scene of a downtown fire, dripping them 50 feet to the street.

    The accident occurred as the men were being raised above the Lankershim Hotel, 230 W. 7th St., which at the time, was believed to have been the source of heavy smoke.

    The 85-foot aerial unit, said William Kemp, a security guard who witnessed the mishap, "came down like a big tree," throwing the men to the street.  None in a crowd of several hundred bystanders was injured.

    The three firemen were taken to Central Receiving Hospital, where Tom Collier, 57, died 2 1/2 hours later of head injuries, Firemen James Denning, 32, and Fire Capt. Hillis Baker, 45, were hospitalized with multiple fractures.

Hydraulic Failure Possible

    Cause of the collapse was not determined immediately, but Fire Chief Raymond Hill said it was possible there was a hydraulic failure in one or both of the ground jacks, causing the snorkel unit to list and then topple.

    Shortly after the accident, it was determined that the smoke was coming from a grease vent in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant next  to the hotel.

    The $90,000 snorkel is one of five owned by the department.

    The only similar accident occurred about 20 years ago when an aerial ladder tipped over during a Fire Department drill.  As a result of that accident, extensive research was done into the angle at which aerial trucks should be positioned when the ladders are in use.   

Fireman Collier had 28 years in, most of it working in the downtown Civic Center area.  From 1942 to 1946 he was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Firefighting units in England, France and Germany.  He was known as a "family man," "the kind of man you could count on."  He leaves five children: Mrs. Debra Jenken, 22; Silvia, 20; Thomas, Jr. 18; Vanessa, 16; and Clarence, 14.



Photos of the incident from the
Robert Morgan Collection

The Vernon Fire Department Collection


  The Tom Collier family is writing to express gratitude to all the wonderful men who gave of their time and skills to help complete the building project.
  All of us who loved Tom are very proud to know that his comrades held him in such high esteem.  The manner in which he lived is providing us with strength and comfort now.  We like to believe that Tom, with his years of service, his conduct as a fireman and as a man, has made some contribution to the cause of brotherhood in your organization and in the Fire Department.
  The tremendous response by all of you fine men tell us this is so.

Mrs. Celeste Collier


Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved.