BALTIMORE (WJZ) — New information on the death of a Baltimore City firefighter found dead in a vacant home hours after being dispatched to a scene.
Rochelle Ritchie looks into the action of a dispatcher that may have kept the safety officer from being found sooner.READ MORE: 3 Baltimore Firefighters Killed In Partial Building Collapse, 1 In Critical Condition
The death of Baltimore City fire safety officer Lt. James Bethea remains a mystery after he was found dead in the basement of a vacant home just hours after responding to a fire next door.
WJZ has learned the actions taken by a dispatcher may have resulted in the 40-year veteran not being found sooner.
According to fire officials, Lt. Bethea was still showing on scene at dispatch headquarters. That’s when a dispatcher decided to place him back in station, indicating he had returned. That is typically done by the firefighters and safety officers themselves.
“That is not something that is normal. And that is something we are investigating at this time as to why it was done,” said Captain Roman Clark, Baltimore City Fire Department.
Lt. Bethea showed up to the 700-block of E. North Avenue in response to a fire at a vacant rowhome. It was nearly eight hours later when another officer noticed his vehicle still at the scene. Officials believe the 62-year-old may have been checking the status of an adjacent home.READ MORE: Manager At La Scala Ristorante Italiano Killed On Sunday Night, Restaurant Says
“It’s not unusual for them to evaluate certain things on their own. So that’s not uncommon,” said Chief Niles Ford, Baltimore City Fire Department.
Lt. Bethea leaves behind a wife and a son. His sister spoke exclusively with WJZ.
“He will just surely be missed by us all,” she said.
An internal investigation into the department’s policies and procedures has since been launched, as investigators try to determine why the lieutenant was placed back in service.
“We owe that to our firefighters, we owe that to the family of Jim and we are going to be deliberate about this,” Chief Ford said.
The funeral for Lt. James Bethea is scheduled for November 20.
The medical examiner has not yet released the cause of death.MORE NEWS: State, City Officials React To Deaths Of Firefighters Following Partial Building Collapse
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