Death of Louisville firefighter creates debate over line of duty - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Death of Louisville firefighter creates debate over line of duty deaths

Sergeant Tim Groft, a 15-year veteran of Louisville's fire department, passed away Saturday from an extended battle with cancer. (Source: louisvilleky.gov) Sergeant Tim Groft, a 15-year veteran of Louisville's fire department, passed away Saturday from an extended battle with cancer. (Source: louisvilleky.gov)
A new Kentucky law allows firefighters to get line of duty benefits from cancer deaths. But that's not the case everywhere. (Source: WAVE 3 News) A new Kentucky law allows firefighters to get line of duty benefits from cancer deaths. But that's not the case everywhere. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The passing of a Louisville firefighter is creating debate over what counts as a line of duty death.

Sergeant Tim Groft, a 15-year veteran of Louisville's fire department, passed away Saturday from an extended battle with cancer.

"He served them with honor, pride, loyalty and dedication," Louisville Division of Fire Chief Gregory Frederick said.

Groft was honored at a special bunting and flag lowering ceremony Tuesday.

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"Tim was the best of us," Brian O'Neil, President of the Louisville Professional Firefighters Union said. "He was a firefighter's firefighter. He was the best of us."

After a state review, he is the first Louisville firefighter to benefit from a new law allowing firefighters to get line of duty benefits from cancer deaths.

That includes $80,000 for his family and free, in-state college tuition for his son.

"Cancer is the number one killer of firefighters and we've been pushing for this for a while," O'Neil said.

Eric Johnson leads Supporting Heroes, a group that provides help and monetary support to families of fallen first responders.

"We help them pursue, primarily, the federal benefit," Johnson said.

In Groft's case, Johnson said Supporting Heroes is not yet able to help. That has led to backlash on social media from firefighters and others.

"There are many definitions of line of duty deaths," Johnson said.

The group covers Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri, where laws differ on line of duty deaths.

"We have to be able to apply the same rules across the board. And that's why we're having a difficult time establishing those guidelines," Johnson said.

They follow strict federal rules that require documented exposures and proof it led to the cancer.

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"If we suddenly say, we're going to cover cancer across the board, then, you know, that's not manageable," he said.

Johnson said better guidelines are needed everywhere.

"We want to cover him and in fact his case is a very compelling case," Johnson said.

Visitation for Sgt. Groft is from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ratterman's Funeral Home.

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