Firefighters could boycott Detroit Grand Prix after 2015 accident ended man's career

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Firefighters may boycott volunteering with the crash rescue team at the Detroit Grand Prix after a first responder was seriously injured while volunteering in 2015.

Joel Barthlow was helping a driver who had been involved in a crash when he was hit by another race. His injuries included broken ribs, a collapsed lung and damage to his spleen and kidney.

Now his career is over, and we're told the race car organizations involved won't help with medical expenses.

The Southfield Fire Fighters Union Local 1029 has submitted a resolution demanding the Detroit Grand Prix and the International Motor Sports Association provide medical, disability and liability insurance coverage for volunteers in the event of a tragedy like Barthlow's.

"Without professional firefighters out there doing this, big racing companies wouldn't be able to have the races because they wouldn't have us there," says firefighter Rob Scott, president of the Southfield Fire Fighters Union Local 1029.

If medical, disability and liability insurance isn't offered, Scott says he's suggested firefighters don't volunteer.

"They could end up like brother Joel is," he says.

Barthlow volunteered as a member of the Grand Prix Crash Rescue Team in 2015. He was rendering first aid to a driver involved in a crash when another vehicle struck him.

"Once he was taken to the hospital, people from the racing outlet team came down there saw him and his family in the hospital," Scott says. "He was on life support and basically was told he'd be taken care of. And when Joel actually starting getting better, they turned and ran."

FOX 2: "Did Joel sign a release form or a waiver of some sort to volunteer?"

"Joel stood in a line and was told to sign papers to get his race credentials," says attorney David Zuppke. "Little did he know, it was actually a legal document."

David Zuppke is Barthlow's lawyer and is suing IMSA, the group that sanctions auto races including those at the Grand Prix.

"IMSA controls the race," he says. "IMSA ordered him out on the track. IMSA is in charge of the flags and the warnings. IMSA alone had the right to stop the race."

Bud Denker, the Detroit Grand Prix chairman, released a statement:

"With ongoing legal action pending between Mr. Barthlow and the insurance company involved, we are unable to comment further at this time."

The race is two weeks away in Detroit from June 2-4.

Everyone who belongs to the state firefighters union is on board with the boycott, but some firefighters in Detroit have put in to volunteer for the Grand Prix Crash Rescue Team.

It is unclear if they knew about the boycott beforehand.