Posted: Jan 14, 2013 7:17 PM by KRTV
Updated: Jan 14, 2013 7:18 PM
Great Falls Fire Marshal Doug Bennyhoff is facing six misdemeanor counts for a September incident that may have resulted in the death of Orville Jones.
Bennyhoff is charged with one count of negligent endangerment and five counts of obstructing a peace officer.
Court documents state that Bennyhoff's story to dispatchers, medical responders, and investigators did not correspond with what other witnesses were saying.
According to witness statements, Bennyhoff was attempting to help Jones, who was intoxicated, get across the street to his apartment by pushing him in a Barrel O' Bucks casino chair that had wheels on the legs.
The witnesses say that Jones, who appeared to be passed out, was ejected from the chair and landed on his head.
The onlookers said they could hear the impact from across the street.
Court documents state that Bennyhoff and two other people then carried Jones to his apartment.
The other men told investigators that they urged Bennyhoff to call 911 after noticing significant swelling on Jones' head.
During the call, Bennyhoff told the 911 dispatcher that Jones had fallen while walking across the street, and when asked if crews needed to respond "emergent" or if officers were needed.. Bennyhoff replied, "No."
When Great Falls Fire Rescue and Great Falls Emergency Services arrived on scene, Bennyhoff reportedly made no mention of the chair and continued to say that Jones had fallen.
At one point, Bennyhoff changed his story when talking to a fellow firefighter, indicating that Jones' injuries came from falling while in the casino.
Emergency responders at the scene told investigators that knowing exactly how an injury occurred is important to determining treatment.
They also stated the protocol for dealing with this type of injury is to immobilize the patient and call 911 immediately, and that, as Fire Marshal, Bennyhoff is aware of the proper protocol.
Jones died from the injuries on September 21st, six days after the incident.
In a later interview with state investigators, Bennyhoff admitted that Jones was ejected from a chair he was pushing, and also admitted to violating protocol and omitting details about how Jones received his injuries.
Bennyhoff has until February 4th to appear in Justice Court.
The maximum penalty for negligent endangerment is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine; for obstructing a peace officer, the maximum is six months in jail and a $500 fine.
The definition of negligent endangerment, according to Montana code: "A person who negligently engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another commits the offense of negligent endangerment."
Bennyhoff is currently on administrative leave from Great Falls Fire Rescue.
Below is an excerpt of the court document detailing the 911 call; click here to read the complete affadavit (PDF).
A review of the 911 recording confirmed Fenner's account of the nature and circumstances of Bennyhoff's call to 911.
While the call was in progress and recording, even before the dispatcher answered, Bennyhoff is heard questioning Orville Jones, "Does it hurt?" and then states, "Looks like it hurts."
Upon connection with the 911 dispatcher, Bennyhoff is heard to say, in a calm voice, "Hey, this is the Fire Marshal. How are you?"
The dispatcher responds, "Good. How are you?" Bennyhoff then responds, "Doing Good. Thank you."
The exchange continued as follows:
Bennyhoff: Hey, ah, I'm sitting here at. . . what's your address Lee? Central Avenue West? 506 Central Avenue West #1. We got a guy that's got a, ah . . . ah, I guess he fell on his head. So . . .
Dispatcher: So a guy there fell on his head?
Orville Jones is then heard stating, "I didn't fall." The dispatcher continues, "Okay."
Bennyhoff: And I'm not so sure that .. I mean, he just needs to be transported and find out that it's not .. eh .. a problem with his head I guess.
Dispatcher: Does he want us to send medical over, check him out?
Bennyhoff: Yeah, please.
Dispatcher: Do we need officers over there?
Bennyhoff: Nope. No, he was just ... he was drunk earlier. He was the one laying in the street on 6th Street earlier.
Dispatcher: Okay. Do we . . .
Bennyhoff: So . . .
Dispatcher: . . . need to go emergent?
Bennyhoff: No, he was . . . I mean it's just . . . he needs to be checked out for sure.
Dispatcher: Okay, is he bleeding from anywhere?
Bennyhoff: Ah, there's a little road rash on his forehead, yeah.
Dispatcher: And he just fell, like he was stumbling fell?
Bennyhoff: No, actually he was, ah, walking across the street and fell on his head, actually . . . I mean, he just fell on, you know . . .
Dispatcher: (unintelligible) request for medical services to district 2.
Bennyhoff: . . . landed on his head a little bit.
Dispatcher: Okay. Is he having any other issues?
Bennyhoff: No. No, he's drunk.
Dispatcher: Okay. I've already got them on their way.
Dispatcher: Okay. And you're standing by with him?
Dispatcher: So he's breathing and everything okay?
Bennyhoff: Oh, yea. Yea, he's having a little trouble with, ah, vomiting a little bit here.
Dispatcher: Having a little . . .
Bennyhoff: Ah . . .
Dispatcher: . . . trouble with what?
Dispatcher: Oh, vomiting. Okay.
Bennyhoff: Yea, but we're gonna deal with that.
Dispatcher: Alright, well let him know they're already on their way.
Bennyhoff: Alright, thank you.
Dispatcher: Thank you. Bye bye.
Bennyhoff: Alright, bye bye. Eh . . .