Granite Mountain Hotshots lawsuit: Mother of fallen firefighter seeks $36 million in son's death

PRESCOTT, AZ - The mother of one of 19 firefighters killed battling the Yarnell Hill Fire earlier this year has said she intends to sue the state of Arizona, the city of Prescott and Yavapai County.

A notice of claim released Friday shows Marcia McKee is seeking $36 million in her 21-year-old son's death -- $12 million each from the state, city and county. McKee's claim is the first of its kind from any of the firefighters' families.

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The notice of claim alleges McKee's son and 18 other Granite Mountain Hotshots died after "the liable public entities lost track of the location and direction of movement (of the team)...had deployed them carelessly, had negligently failed to coordinate their movements...had failed to maintain consistent, effective communication."

"With the use of modern technology and the application of old-fashioned common sense, the death of these fine men was entirely preventable," the paperwork contends.

Grant McKee and his fellow crewmembers died June 30 when they became trapped while fighting the erratic lightning-sparked wildfire. All but one member of the Granite Mountain team -- a lookout -- died in the blaze.

A three-month investigation into the deaths cited poor communication between the men and support staff, and revealed that an airtanker carrying flame retardant was hovering overhead as the men died.

The 120-page report released in September found that all procedures were followed and assigned little of blame.

In McKee's notice of claim, she alleges that the Yarnell Hill Fire Report "is a whitewash...the authors produced a blame-avoiding, muddled and untrustworthy cover-up."

According to the claim, McKee is willing to settle the matter for an aggregate settlement of $12 million if the issue can be resolved within 60 days.

"Knowing the cause of my son's death, the pain and suffering for his last gasp of air that my baby had to go through the the terror he must have felt, is agony on my heart every single day," McKee said. "Losing my son, my best friend, and my only child, at the age of only 21, it's not supposed to be like this."

McKee told ABC15's Navideh Forghani she still believes it is all a bad dream, a recurring nightmare she can't stop thinking about.

"Very Hard. Very hard," McKee says. "It kind opened my eyes and all I think about is my son."

Now she's hoping this claim will give her answers that will create policy changes to prevent this from happening to another family.

Gov. Jan Brewer, Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, Attorney General Tom Horne and Dept. of Public Safety Director Robert Halliday are among those named in the notice of claim.

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