Mother of fallen Arizona firefighter files $36M claim - New York News

Mother of fallen Arizona firefighter files $36M claim

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Grant McKee; Marcia McKee Grant McKee; Marcia McKee
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PHOENIX -

The mother of a fallen Granite Mountain Hot Shot is seeking $36 million over the death of her son.

Marcia McKee has filed a notice of claim against the state of Arizona, the city of Prescott and Yavapai County, blaming the three entities for the death of the 19 hot shots, including her son, 21-year-old Grant McKee.

It's the first step towards filing a lawsuit and it's the first claim filed by a family member of the 19 firefighters who died June 30th while battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire.

This notice of claim alleges the deaths of the 19 firefighters could have been prevented -- that the city, county and state violated nationally recognized firefighting standards and operations and carelessly let the hot shots suffer and die.

Marcia lost her only child and all she has left is his voice.

On a voicemail message, Grant said, "Hey mom, it's me Grant calling to let you know everything is okay.. safe.. I am exhausted and super tired.. going to be any minute now."

It was one of the last messages Grant left for his mother.

"From the time I open my eyes and shut them, that's all I think about.. how he had to suffer.  It shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened at all," she said.

The notice of claim filed on her behalf alleges Prescott, Yavapai County and state officials "lost track of the location and direction" of the Granite Mountain hot shot crew, "negligently failed to coordinate their movements... carelessly failed to provide them with escape routes and let them die excruciating deaths."

"19 men don't lose their lives unless some serious mistakes were made," said McKee's attorney, Craig Knapp.  "These men who sacrificed everything put their lives on the line had no support."

The claims seeks a total of $36 million from the public entities, but accepts a total of $12 million if the claim is settled in 60 days.

"That just sounds like pure unadulterated greed," said Geoffrey Hatch, a wildland fire survivor.  "The lawsuit, I understand it if she's trying to get something corrected.. I'm with her.  If she's trying to get money out of it, I really wouldn't support it."

Hatch fought and survived the Dude Fire in 1990.  He says mother nature's unpredictability is more likely to blame than negligence.

"They didn't throw the guys out there saying, 'here go out there, you're not coming back, see you later,' every firefighter that goes out to the line knows full well that's a possibility that could happen," he said.

McKee hopes her claim and impending lawsuit will force some answers, and prevent another tragedy.

"I don't want anybody to have to go through the suffering and pain that I'm going through.  It's just not right.  I want them to have GPS, I want them to have backup.  I want them to have escape plans."

We called the city of Prescott, the state attorney general's office, and Yavapai County officials -- all said they did not want to comment on the claim.

They have until mid-January to respond.  If they don't, attorneys will go forward with filing a lawsuit.

Family members of the other Granite Mountain hot shots have until December 27th.  That's the deadline to file a notice of claim, over the deaths in the Yarnell fire.

Click here to read the Notice of Claim - Yarnell Hill fire

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