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L.A. firefighter dies after falling off ladder during training exercise

A Los Angeles firefighter died Monday morning, two days after he fell from an aerial ladder during a training exercise in downtown L.A.

The Los Angeles Fire Department announced Kelly Wong’s death on Twitter in a written statement.

The 29-year-old firefighter was participating in an exercise Saturday morning in the 300 block of South Main Street.

Wong was immediately taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition.

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Minutes after the accident, firefighters throughout the department showed up to the hospital, Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said. Other firefighters volunteered to cover Wong’s work shifts.

Firefighter Kelly Wong
Firefighter Kelly Wong.
(Los Angeles Fire Department)

“Despite the heroic efforts of doctors and nurses at the hospital, firefighter Wong succumbed to his injuries early Monday morning,” the fire department said in a statement.

Wong had been a firefighter with the department for two years and was assigned to Station 92 in Rancho Park.

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He was set to transfer to Station 9, which serves the skid row neighborhood and downtown L.A.

Wong was working at the station at the time of his fall.

“It is always a tragedy to lose one of our own, especially an accomplished individual who was still at the beginning of what was certainly going to be a promising career,” Terrazas said in the statement.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday a pair of Los Angeles police motorcycle officers escorted a caravan of LAFD vehicles and a coroner’s van carrying Wong’s body from LAC+USC Medical Center to the L.A. County Coroner’s office.

Firefighters, fire paramedics, sheriff’s deputies and LAPD officers lined Marengo Street as the procession rolled beneath a giant American flag tied to a pair of aerial ladders.

Wong’s family -- his wife, Danielle, his infant son, Colton, his mother, Ann, his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Barbara and Michael Quinlan, and his sisters-in-law Nicole and Stephanie — were present as his body arrived at the coroner’s office.

Some stood by and watched as the American flag draped over his body was carefully folded and then handed to a crying woman.

The body was then taken to the coroner’s office as family members held each other.

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“I told the family that they’re not alone,” Terrazas said. " Colton has ...3,500 uncles and aunts. We’re going to watch over them. It’s our obligation.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he had known Wong for a couple of years when the young firefighter graduated from the fire department’s academy at Terminal Island in San Pedro with top academic honors.

Wong emigrated from Hong Kong when he was 8, the mayor said.

“He was a hero to our city, a hero for this department, a hero for his family,” Garcetti said.

Fire Engineer Mike Spears said he worked with Wong for more than a year at Station 92, where he cooked delicious meals for the firehouse. He said Wong wanted to learn as much as he could about the department and firefighting.

Wong was “dedicated to the craft,” Spears said, and a loving and doting father.

“He was always showing us new pictures of baby Colton,” he said. “He was a happy dad, and we’re going to miss him.”

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The fire department is investigating his death, Terrazas said.

Once the investigation is complete, the chief said he hopes to learn whether improvements need to be made in the training exercises.

This was the department’s first deadly accident involving an aerial ladder, Terrazas said.

He declined to provide details about what might have occurred until the investigation is completed. Terrazas said he thinks that Wong participated in similar exercises in the past.

“It was a part of the standard type of training,” said Margaret Stewart, a department spokeswoman.

The training exercises, which are typically held on weekends, give firefighters an opportunity to practice how they would respond to a blaze in a high-rise building, she said.

During the drills, firefighters practice pulling hose lines, perform roof ventilation and climb aerial ladders, Stewart said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is also investigating the accident, agency spokesman Luke Brown said. The investigation will include reviewing the fire department’s injury and illness prevention plan, inspecting the scene of the accident and talking to witnesses.

Wong is the third LAFD firefighter to die this year.

Capt. David T. Moorman, 50, died on Feb. 5 when he suffered a medical emergency. He was off-duty and in his home.

Moorman worked with the department 27 years and was assigned to Station 96 in Chatsworth.

In April, Battalion Chief Jerome Boyd suffered a medical emergency and died while driving a city vehicle near downtown L.A.

The 55-year-old firefighter worked for the department for more than 30 years. Boyd was assigned to the department’s Fire Prevention Bureau’s Public Safety Section.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA

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UPDATES:

12:50 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the fire chief, the mayor and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

11:20 a.m.: This article was updated with details about the caravan that delivered Wong’s body to the coroner’s office.

9:25 a.m.: This article was updated with details about the training exercise and other firefighters who have died this year.

This article was originally published at 8:35 a.m.


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