I-Team: What’s behind Waterville firefighter missing EMS call

I-Team: Waterville firefighter investigation
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 10:58 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 8:13 AM EST
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WATERVILLE, Ohio (WTVG) -13abc’s I-Team has learned further details in relation to how one firefighter was not awake to respond to an emergency call.

According to the Waterville Fire Station, some individuals suspect that alcohol was involved.

Here’s some of what the I-Team has uncovered regarding the incident: on August 30, 2022, Waterville firefighters received a check safety call on Silverbrook Lane, which sits in the station’s backyard.

Nearly everyone from the crew responded, but firefighter Zachary Bernhard did not, as he was “hard to wake.” He was later sent for blood alcohol content and drug tests.

13abc’s I-Team learned these details from documents uncovered while inquiring about an incident only five hours earlier.

Waterville Fire 2 by Shaun on Scribd

Firefighters Greg Robertson and Zach Welling wrote statements saying they were in a car around 2:30 a.m. headed to the fire station. Welling said firefighter Bernhard was dropped off because he had to be on a shift at 7 a.m.

Welling continued with " I did not know when he had one or what time he last had said drink.”

All three firefighters caused what was described as a noise disturbance to wake several sleeping firefighters.

According to documents, one firefighter tried to wake Bernhard several times as the 7 a.m. shift approached. The firefighter reports that Bernhard opened one eye while being talked to.

Yet, when the EMS call came in at 7:51 a.m. Bernhard was still in bed instead of responding to the call.

Other firefighters responded to Silverbrook Court, where the patient eventually refused transport. Once Waterville Fire Administrators figured out what occurred, Bernhard was sent to the deputy chief’s office.

Chief Douglas Meyer wrote in a report that the deputy chief “smelled alcohol on Mr. Bernhard.”

The deputy chief said in a follow-up report that “I could smell what I believed to be alcohol and Zach has bloodshot and glassy eyes.”

The documents do not have a statement from Bernhard and 13abc’s request for comment has not been returned.

The city of Waterville placed Bernhard on administrative leave. He resigned on September 9, 2022, citing that his decision stemmed from “personal reasons that I have been dealing with for a little while.

City administrator Jon Gochenour said in a statement to 13abc " at no point was a member of the public or city staff put in any danger due to this incident.”

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