Friends, Neighbors Want Steps Taken To Stop Tragedy After Claremore Firefighter's Death
CLAREMORE, Oklahoma - Nearly two years after Claremore Fire Captain Jason Farley's death during sudden flooding, friends and neighbors wonder if the City is doing enough to prevent another tragedy.
Sarah Hayes is one of them; a mom of two, and wife of a Claremore firefighter, Hayes said she felt sick to her stomach this weekend.
As parts of Claremore flooded, her husband was on shift.
"It's a very scary thing," Hayes said. "They all stress. It's a very uneasy feeling."
In May 2015, a close family friend died on the job.
Farley got trapped in a storm drain on Archer Court while trying to save others. Emergency crews all around him dropped everything to help him, including Lieutenant Zane James.
Both Farley and James got swept into the drain. James escaped with injuries; Farley drowned.
"Now that it's happened, that we, unfortunately, lost one of our own," Hayes explained, "it's been brought to our attention."
As a result, firefighters now get more water rescue training, and the City installed a bright yellow guardrail around the drain.
Communication has changed, too.
The Claremore Fire Department said crews came in to shut down Archer Road and contact neighbors to warn them of flooding early in the process before the water levels got too high.
Neighbors said the water moves quickly during a flooding event.
"Saturday [the water] was pretty high," said Chad Acree. "It got to the edge of the concrete."
Acree moved into the house next to the storm drain in September, so he wasn't living there when Farley died.
After what he saw this weekend though, Acree said the guardrail is not nearly enough of a safeguard.
"Those bars aren't going to stop it," Acree said. "I mean, they're a deterrent to make you aware of what's there."
But that's not enough, Hayes said.
"I don't think the yellow bars are going to prevent it," Hayes said. "I mean, you still have a huge opening to go through a drainage pipe."
Farley's wife filed a tort claim against the city in October 2015, asking for $2 million. The claim said the City failed to provide adequate training and did not have a safety fence or grate installed to guard the drain. She filed a lawsuit months later, which a judge dismissed.
The Claremore Fire Department said the city is waiting for approval on a grant to reconstruct all of its stormwater drains.