A young child was struck by a New Bedford Fire Department SUV on Hill Street late Wednesday afternoon, and authorities confirmed to WBSM News that Deputy Fire Chief Scott Kruger was behind the wheel.

In a statement issued around 24 hours after the incident, the New Bedford Police Department today said that police had investigated and determined that Kruger was not at fault. The department said the child was not badly injured.

Following up on a tip, WBSM News arrived in the area of 53 Hill Street Wednesday evening approximately two hours after the scene was cleared, and neighbors out on the street provided photos and information.

The residents said a black SUV with a blue fire department plate hit a six-year-old boy who was crossing Hill Street at around 4 p.m. According to witnesses, a man wearing a white uniform-style shirt emerged from the vehicle and administered first aid until New Bedford EMS arrived. Multiple police and fire vehicles arrived and the boy was transported from the site in an ambulance.

After the boy was placed in the ambulance, police and fire personnel quickly left the scene and the fire department staffer, who at that point was not identified, drove off in the accident-involved SUV, witnesses said.

Mary Serreze/Townsquare Media
Mary Serreze/Townsquare Media

"I heard the skid and the bang," said a neighbor who did not wish to be named. "The boy was crying and screaming. His family members were holding him down to prevent him from moving."

The man said he heard police asking the driver if he had been on his cell phone at the time of the incident. He provided WBSM News with a cell phone photo of the SUV's license plate and a photo of the "white shirt guy" who he had seen behind the wheel of the fire department SUV.

Others in the immediate area added that some residents of Hill Street were heard yelling and cursing at first responders as they packed up and left the scene.

"He's a public safety official," one neighbor told WBSM News. "He just got back into his vehicle and left. They all just left. It pissed everyone off."

Several neighbors said Wednesday evening that the child's relatives were still at the hospital. They said they had heard that the child sustained a concussion and bruises. A woman who emerged from the house where the boy reportedly lives said she did not want to talk to a reporter.

New Bedford EMS confirmed this morning that an ambulance responded to Hill Street at approximately 1600 hours for reports of a boy hit by a vehicle. WBSM contacted the New Bedford Police Department, the New Bedford Fire Department, and the Office of Mayor Jon Mitchell seeking comment.

The New Bedford Police Department Director of Communications Melissa Batchilder issued the following statement to WBSM News at around 4 p.m.:

"At approximately 3:58 p.m. on September 16, 2020, a city-issued vehicle operated by Deputy Fire Chief Scott Kruger was involved in an incident when a child reportedly ran into the street in front of the moving vehicle traveling at a slow speed near 53 Hill Street in New Bedford. The operator reported that he attempted to stop after seeing the child run out from behind a parked car, but could not come to a full stop in the short distance between the child and the vehicle. He immediately rendered medical aid to the child until EMS arrived. The child did not lose consciousness or appear to be visibly injured, but was transported to Hasbro Children’s Hospital as a precaution and for a full examination. The accident has been investigated by the New Bedford Police Department and the operator was not found to be at fault for the accident."

The New Bedford Fire Department Chief Paul Coderre issued the following statement to WBSM News, also at around 4 p.m.:

“The New Bedford Fire Department’s thoughts are with the child involved in the accident, and the child’s family at this time. We are grateful that no serious injuries were sustained in the accident. Deputy Chief Kruger attempted to come to a full stop as soon as he saw the child run into the road, and he rendered emergency medical aid to the child after the accident. As a matter of standard procedure with city employees and city-issued vehicles, the deputy chief was immediately tested for alcohol and drugs, and the preliminary screening indicates he has tested negative for the presence of any alcohol or drugs. The Police Department has investigated the accident and did not find the deputy chief to be at fault for the accident.”

WBSM has filed a public records request with the city seeking additional information.

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