A veteran fire captain testified Wednesday that he was trapped in debris that fell from a ceiling during a February 2011 fire at a luxury home in the Hollywood Hills, where another longtime firefighter suffered fatal injuries.
Called to testify during a hearing to determine if an architect who designed and oversaw the construction of the home should stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Edward Watters told Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan that he "heard a loud bang" and suddenly found himself lying on his back with a "lot of weight on my chest."
"It took me a few seconds to realize I was buried ... I could not even move at all. I was totally immobilized," the fire captain testified.
Gerhard Albert Becker—a 48-year-old German national who owned, designed and built the home —is charged in connection with the death of firefighter Glenn Allen, 61.
Allen, a 36-year veteran of the LAFD, died two days after being struck by a portion of the ceiling during the Feb. 16, 2011, blaze.
Watters testified that he heard an "eerie silence" in the house, tried to keep himself from panicking and called for help from other firefighters, who were eventually able to free him. The fire captain said he suffered a broken tibia and was off work for five months.
Prosecutors allege that the fire in the newly constructed home in the 1500 block of Viewsite Drive was traced to a negligently installed inside fireplace that was designed only for outdoor use.
Becker was charged with the felony count nearly a year after the blaze.
The hearing is set to resume Thursday morning.
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