A CCTV footage of four middle-aged firefighters assaulting a 17-year-old volunteer firefighter has triggered multiple investigations, the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA), Australia said.
According to the authority, the girl was targeted multiple times at the Eaglehawk station in Bendigo which is about 160km north of Melbourne.
"The footage clearly shows that the young woman was wrestled to the ground by a male volunteer, dragged along the floor, and forced under a fire truck where she
was sprayed with water," the CFA said in an investigation report released on Wednesday (24 January), referring to the incident seen in the video footage.
It took place on 27 November 2017 and was reportedly part of light hearted "hazing", some of the accused told the CFA.
Later that evening, the station's captain, Hayden Allen, flicked the girl with a towel multiple times and every time she fell, he used his keys and swirled it near her head to get her up, the CFA report stated, noting that the teenager was also chased and hit with a thong by one of the accused men.
In another incident that took place in August or September 2017, the girl was duct-taped and kept tied to the bull bar of a fire truck. While there is no CCTV footage of this incident, the captain and a volunteer have both admitted to it.
The footage also revealed how some members of the team consumed alcohol and were seen running through the wet car park into the fire station, the authority added.
Allen, and three other CFA volunteers have been suspended amid ongoing investigations, one of which is being conducted by the authority. One of the four men have been charged with negligence and received a 14-month suspension. However, no criminal charges have been pressed against any of the accused.
Acting Premier James Merlino reportedly told Australian Associated Press that it was an "internal incident" and hence, no criminal charges have been made by police. "And there's a number of processes to deal with this disgusting incident," he added. It was not immediately clear if the victim filed any police complaint against the repeated assault incidents.
Meanwhile, CFA added that some other people who were seen in the November footage witnessing the assault without trying to intervene will undergo compulsory counselling.
"The brigade has been let down by significant leadership deficiencies by its then-captain, who was involved in a number of incidents and has displayed a lack of responsible leadership," the CFA report read.
"The type of behaviour evident in the video footage is unacceptable and will not be tolerated within
CFA. It appears that the consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in at least one of
the incidents," it added.
However, according to Allan there are "two sides to every story". On Wednesday, he wrote a Facebook post stating, "As you are aware my name has been tarnished throughout the media.
"Please understand that I cannot make comment on the allegations that have been accused. But like all things there is two sides to every story and unfortunately we just have to ride the wave."
The girl is currently being offered support by the CFA who contacted her mother and met with her family.
The CFA has also informed the Victoria Police, WorkSafe Victoria, and the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner about the incident. WorkSafe Victoria has already started its own investigation.