Hartford Fire officials named in Bell wrongful death lawsuit

Wayatte Statham-Bell, widow of former Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell, spoke at a news conference announcing the family's intent to sue the city (WTNH / George Roelefsen)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The family of fallen Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Hartford.

The lawsuit names four defendants; including the City of Hartford, Fire Chief Carlos Huertas and a deputy chief, but it specifically mentions a Lt. John Moree, who went into the building with Bell that fateful day, accusing him of leaving his partner behind leading to his demise. The lawsuit even states that “personal animus,” played a role in that lieutenant’s decision to leave Bell behind.

A normal day that turned tragic for Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell. He died from asphyxia, trapped inside a burning building in October, last year.

The family filed a 14-count civil lawsuit against the city of Hartford Thursday. It cites multiple failures of both equipment and personnel training, including a late decision to send in a rescue team to search for Bell.

An official report released in August found that Bell become entangled on a piece of furniture inside the smoky building. Lt. Moree made it out, but Bell was left behind.

Over the last year many agencies investigated Bell’s death. The family attorney said today’s lawsuit was based on those findings, some of which have already been addressed.

“You don’t send a firefighter into a building burning and smoke filled with faulty or ill-maintained equipment,” Attorney Paul Levin said.

The family wants justice, saying Kevin Bell, didn’t have to die.

“We want every single person (accountable) who should be held accountable,” Shawn Bell said.

A spokesperson for the City of Hartford, said in a statement that they have not reviewed the lawsuit in its entirety yet and that they do not comment on pending litigation.

Bell’s daughter is scheduled to give birth to his first grandchild in January.

Below is a transcription of the remarks made by Wayatte Statham-Bell, widow of Kevin Bell, at a news conference Thursday morning.

I talked to my husband on the phone just two hours before he died on October 7, 2014.

He was happy and laughing like he always was. Our daughter Racquel had just brought him a coffee at the firehouse and, of course, he always loved seeing her.

I had no idea that would be the last time I would ever hear his voice.

I wasn’t feeling well, so, I took a nap and then woke up to chaos and confusion. We got a call that Kevin had been injured in a fire but we didn’t know what had happened or how seriously he had been hurt. We rushed to St. Francis Hospital where we waited and waited, not knowing if Kevin was going to be okay.

When we finally learned that we had lost him, my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

Kevin was the love of my life. We had been together for 26 years. It’s hard for me to remember what it was like to not have Kevin in my life. We met when we were practically babies. The past year seems unreal.

Losing him is something I will never get over.

Kevin loved being a firefighter and he took his job seriously. The day he got the job, he was so happy. I remember him saying, “I made it. I did it.” It was an accomplishment not just for Kevin, but also for the community as a whole. He grew up in the North End of Hartford and pushed other kids to do better, try harder, and be somebody.

Kevin wasn’t just a firefighter; he was a role model.

And that’s what makes this so hard. It was the job he loved so much that ultimately cost him his life, and at no fault of his own.

He dedicated his life to protect others but who was looking out for him that day? Why did it take so long to go back into that burning building and get him? Why was he left alone? Abandoned?

And one year later, knowing what I know now, I know my husband never should have died that day.

Every single day without him is hard. I miss him in the morning. I miss him at night. I miss hearing his voice and seeing his smile. He was my soul mate and without him, my soul is inconsolable.

He has missed so much in this last year; Thanksgiving, Christmas, and of course, his birthday are the hardest days. But what is even more heartbreaking is the fact that Kevin will not be here to meet and see his first grandchild. In January, our daughter Racquel is having a baby boy. How Kevin would have loved to see that day.

After Bell’s widow finished her statement, Kevin’s brother Shawn Bell questioned the amount of time that passed before the rescue team was sent in.

“Eight minutes and three seconds. That’s how long it took the scene commander to dispatch a rescue team into the burning building and locate my brother. Eight minutes and three seconds after that muffled mayday call was transmitted and yet, it took only twenty seconds to find him. My brother was left behind and by the time they went back to get him, it was too late. If they had gone in sooner, I am certain my brother would still be with us today. “

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