Four members of the Elmont Fire Department drill competition racing...

Four members of the Elmont Fire Department drill competition racing team were hurt, one seriously, when they fell off a racing truck Tuesday evening during practice at this facility on Hungry Harbor Road in North Woodmere, police and fire officials said. (Aug. 30, 2011) Credit: Stringer News

Four members of an Elmont Fire Department drill team were injured, one seriously, when the vehicle they were riding in during a nighttime practice session lost control and struck a wooden guardrail, police said.

The drill team was practicing Tuesday night for a popular Labor Day skills competition involving firefighters from across Long Island, Elmont Fire District Chief Michael Capoziello said.

According to police, four members of the drill team were on the rear step of the truck holding on to a grip bar during the practice session in North Woodmere Park when the truck veered to the left and struck the guardrail at about 7:24 p.m.

The collision sent an unidentified 26-year-old firefighter onto the roadway, police said. He suffered a serious head injury as well as multiple abrasions and contusions. Two unidentified male firefighters, ages 23 and 25, were thrown over the guardrail and a fourth 20-year-old firefighter landed on the roadway, police said. The seriously injured man and two others were taken to Jamaica Hospital. The fourth was taken to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Capoziello said.

The male driver of the truck was uninjured. The vehicle was impounded for safety checks and an investigation is ongoing.

The 26-year-old firefighter who suffered head trauma remained hospitalized in serious condition Wednesday.

"He's doing a lot better. His condition has improved immensely," Capoziello said.

The other firefighters were in stable condition, officials said.

The four injured firefighters were practicing for the skills competition called firematic racing, where competitors from dozens of departments in Nassau and Suffolk counties participate to show which teams are fastest using their firefighting skills.

"These things have been happening over 100 years," said Capoziello. "Most fire departments have a team going back to the 1920s."

According to the 2011 roster posted on the New York State Volunteer Fireman's Parade and Drill Team Captain's Association website, there are 80 teams in both Nassau and Suffolk counties combined.

Entry fees for drill team races and any costs associated with them are covered with money the department gathers with fundraising efforts throughout the year, said a spokesman.

Drill team vehicles, which are not used for emergencies, are owned, maintained and insured by the fire district.

The injured volunteer firefighters are covered for their medical costs by the Elmont Fire District because the accident is considered to have occurred during a line of duty activity, said district spokesman Robert Leonard.

With Bill Mason and John Valenti

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