Posted: Jan 14, 2013 7:50 PM by MTN News
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.