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Family of Hartford firefighter killed last year files wrongful death lawsuit

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HARTFORD -- The family of fallen firefighter Kevin Bell filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Hartford, the Hartford fire chief, the commander on the scene the night of the Blue Hills Avenue fire and the lieutenant who was partnered with Bell in the burning home.

Kevin Bell's familyBell died while fighting a fire on October 7, 2014.

Bell's widow, Wayatte Statham-Bell and his brother, Shawn Bell Sr., held a press conference with their attorney, Paul Levin, Thursday morning. The lawsuit was filed in Hartford Superior Court.

The suit claims that inaction by other firefighters, equipment problems and system failures lead to Bell's death. It also says the department failed to properly train firefighters and to keep up equipment maintenance. The suit alleges that the firefighters entered the building that night with substandard equipment, and that fact was known to the command staff.

For our full coverage of the issues plaguing the Hartford Fire Department over the past year, click here.

Bell ran out of breathing air in his tank while in the house, and his family claims that he was left behind in the house by his supervisor, Lt. John Moore. The family said in the suit that Moore's behavior could be characterized as a conscious effort and intentional act.  According to the suit, Bell had told family members and other firefighters that Moore had "abandoned him" an active fire situation previously, and Bell had confronted Moore about the behavior.Kevin Bell and Wayatte Bell

The mayday call issued by Lt. Moore went unheeded and the resulting search by the tactical team was delayed more than eight minutes, according to the suit. The suit alleges that Moore's "inexplicable" failure to muster a prompt response, may not have been done intentionally to injure or kill Bell, but "may fairly be characterized as a conscious and intentional act which made injury or death substantially certain to occur."

The suit said Deputy Chief James McLaughlin's delay to order the tactical team to search for Bell, despite requests by a member of the team, could also be characterized as a conscious and intentional act.

Since Bell's passing, members of Hartford Fire Department have endured scrutiny and changes.  Higher-ups faced numerous investigations and flaws with leadership, communication and protocol were revealed.

In April, CONN-OSHA slapped HFD with several safety violations. The allegations included that equipment that wasn't properly fitted, maintained or even used.  A federal report released earlier in the year concluded that Bell's oxygen tank malfunctioned the night he died.

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