IG report finds wrongdoing by Browning, others in State Fire Marshal's Office

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Office of Inspector General reports an investigation into the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal found State Fire Marshal Butch Browning was not completely forthcoming with information following a carnival ride accident that left two teens injured. Read the report

The teenagers were hurt while riding the "Zipper" on May 14, 2011 at a fair in Greensburg.

The report from the IG states the State Fire Marshal (SFM) investigator found an SFM inspector checked the ride just seven hours prior to the accident, but had failed to detect mechanical problems with it.

According to the report, the investigator said he told Browning of possible mechanical problems with the inspection and possible liability of the SFM.

However, Browning publicly blamed the accident on "operator error."

The IG report states the SFM Mechanical Safety Section confirmed mechanical problems with the ride, including a missing parking brake and improper controls.

The report added those problems were there when the inspection was done the day of the accident. "If there is no other take away from this report it would be that we have identified that there is a very serious public safety concern with regard to the carnival rides," says Stephen Street the state inspector general.

Officials also wrote the SFM investigator and mechanical safety inspector stated the accident would not have happened had the ride been properly equipped according to the manufacturer's specifications.

"I think that's a mischaracterization of the facts if you look at it," says Col. Mike Edmonson the head of public safety. "There are a lot of allegations in anything. My job, our job as a police department is to take these allegations and apply fact to them, apply state law to them."

The IG also investigated the former chief of emergency services with the SFM for instructing employees to claim hours not worked the purchase of firearms by three non-law enforcement SFM employees and military ribbons worn by Browning.

The IG made six recommendations to the fire marshal's office to appropriately address the findings.

The report also includes Browning's written response to the report. Tuesday Browning told 9-news he's not concerned with the report itself. "We welcome the fact that we can always make things better," says Browning. "I think having an organization come in to an organization coming in on a regular basis to look at processes and help us do better we welcome it."

The investigation into the state fire marshal's office began after complaints from the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

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