Tennis-playing firefighters investigated

Officials slam Local 10 investigation

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. - Key Biscayne's vice mayor slammed a Local 10 Investigation, calling it bad journalism and a hatchet job.

Despite Vice Mayor Michael Kelly's comments, the Village has launched an investigation, and a Key Biscayne fire captain has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

"I was very disappointed to see this news coverage. It was clearly a hatchet job," Kelly said at a Village Council meeting Tuesday night.

Local 10 cameras spotted nine Key Biscayne firefighters playing tennis while on duty at 5 p.m. outside the Village limits.

The firefighters arrived at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in a rescue unit, a fire truck and a support vehicle, then headed to the courts.

The video shows the firefighters playing tennis until a call comes in over the radio.

The game comes to a screeching halt, and the firefighters and paramedics race to their trucks.

But Local 10 has learned there was no call at all. Those caught on video were simply trying to get away from the cameras.

Interim Village Manager John Gilbert called it bad judgment.

Mayor Frank Cramer said he was concerned about response back into the Village in a true emergency.

At Tuesday night's Village Council meeting, the president of the firefighters' union also criticized the report.

 "Wherever we are, we have the tools to operate for fire or medical calls. Tennis is a form of physical training and is not prohibited," said union president Gary Carter.

Carter also took aim at Local 10's Jeff Weinsier.

"The reporter only had one intention, and he accomplished his mission by turning our community upside-down with half truths and selective reporting," Carter said.

During the discussion, Kelly asked Interim Fire Chief Eric Lang if having firefighters at the tennis center at 5 p.m. posed an increase risk to response time compared to doing physical activity at the gym, which is in the fire station.

"Would there be an increase in response time from that location? I would say probably yes," Lang told Village Council members.

While there is no policy in place, Gilbert, a former fire chief who is now interim village manager, did put out a directive to the fire department years ago not to use Crandon Park for exercise because of the extra time it would take to get back into the village for an emergency.

Because of staffing shortages in the fire department, the Key Biscayne Police Department is conducting the internal investigation. Its findings will be handed to the village manager.

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