A reckless driving charge against a James City County firefighter in a New Year’s Eve accident involving a fire truck and a septic truck was dismissed Friday in Williamsburg-James City County General District Court.
Christopher D’Annibale was the driver of a fire truck responding to a structure fire when he entered the intersection of Richmond Road, Rochambeau Drive and Barhamsville Road and struck a septic truck.
The crash injured four people, including the septic truck driver and passenger, who were hospitalized. D’Annibale and another firefighter in the fire truck suffered minor injuries.
D’Annibelle said in court that he had the fire truck’s sirens and lights on when he entered the intersection, something James City County Police officer M.L. Marchand confirmed. D’Annibale also said he had looked both left and right as he approached the intersection and did not see anyone there before entering it.
“I did not see a truck,” D’Annibale said.
Marchand said he was in the left-hand turn lane on Richmond Road and was turning to continue on Richmond Road when the fire truck came from behind him and entered the intersection. Marchand said he heard the siren first and then saw the lights before the crash.
D’Annibale, who has been with the James City County Fire Department for just over three years as a firefighter and EMT intermediate, said he had already been disciplined for the incident, as he was placed on paid administrative leave, had his pay reduced five percent and his position downgraded.
Tommy Norment, who represented D’Annibale in court, said that under the reckless driving statute, emergency vehicles have a lot of latitude when it comes to right of way. Norment said that if the driver had his siren and lights on and was trying to be sensitive to the life and welfare of others, the person is absolved of criminal, but not civil, liability.
Judge Carson Saunders Jr., in dismissing the charge against D’Annibale, said it was a difficult situation for the court to deal with.
“I think he was doing what he was supposed to do,” Saunders said. “I give a lot of latitude to first responders, especially when they’re responding to an emergency.”