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Fire Police hold national summit here

March 06, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

HALFWAY - The death of Joseph Kroboth Jr., a Halfway Volunteer Fire Company fire captain killed while directing traffic at a car crash, will not be in vain, speakers at a National Police Fire Summit here promised Saturday.

Instead, the deaths of Kroboth, 59, and other public safety employees around the nation sparked the first weekend summit, which was organized by the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association.

Through speeches and workshops, the summit participants plan to develop written recommendations, possibly including legislation, in order to reduce the number of such fatalities.

About 120 people Saturday morning attended the workshop, which runs through noon today at the Howard Johnson Hotel.

"We are here because of nightmares," said Steve Austin, summit coordinator. "Have we simply conditioned ourselves to accept that we will lose our own?"

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At one point the audience was asked how many of them have had a "near miss" or a "close call" while at an accident scene. Almost everyone raised a hand.

The event, also titled, "Protecting Our Emergency Responders on the Highways," was dedicated to Kroboth's memory. The summit was held in Halfway as an additional way of honoring him, said Association President Joseph Bukowski.

On May 2, 1998, Kroboth was assisting with traffic control at an accident on Interstate 81 when he was struck by a pickup truck.

He was the first Washington County fire police officer to die in the line of duty. No charges were filed in the accident.

Kroboth was a 39-year veteran of the Halfway fire department, where he formerly served as lieutenant and was serving on the board of trustees. He was also a member of the Antietam Fire Company.

Kroboth's son, Joseph Kroboth III, a fire chief at Halfway, said the compassion shown by summit speakers meant a lot to him. He urged the audience not to forget "our fallen comrades."

"We must determine what went wrong and initiate changes to see it never happens again," he said.

Washington County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz welcomed the summit to the county.

"It is a shame that tragedy has to bring seminars together," he said. He hoped, however, the summit will result in finding a way to prevent more deaths.

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