On February 23, 2008 at 0248 hours Station 92, Deptford EMS and an ALS unit were dispatched to Almonesson Road in the area of Lakeview Avenue for a report of a motor vehicle crash.
Battalion Chief Rich Thomas (9201) signed on responding and received an update message from the communications center advising of a single vehicle crash, off the road, and the driver cannot get out. B/C Thomas arrived on location and reported a one vehicle crash with the vehicle off the road, lying on its side into trees. B/C Thomas found two patients, the driver standing outside the vehicle and the other, a front seat passenger, inside the vehicle heavily entrapped. B/C Thomas requested two BLS units and an ALS unit.
B/C Thomas gave orders for responding Engine 921, which is a Squad Company, carrying a full set of extrication tools and other specialty equipment, to set up the light tower for lighting and prepare to go into service for extrication. Orders were given to Engine 922 to set up fire suppression and to assist the crew of Engine 921 with stabilization.
The vehicle was northbound on Almonesson Road and left the travel portion of the roadway and struck trees with the passenger side of the vehicle. This resulting collision with the trees caused a severe intrusion into the passenger compartment through the passenger door pushing the seat-belted passenger into the rear seat still in her seat, entrapping her from the chest down with the door, roof, floorboard, drivers seat, and the trees. The vehicle came to rest suspended in the air on its passenger side by the two trees which broke and bent over. The vehicle was wrapped around the trees which kept the vehicle from going into Little Timber Creek.
B/C Thomas climbed down to the front of the vehicle and started to talk the driver, who very hysterical and screaming to the passenger inside the vehicle. B/C Thomas ordered the crew of Engine 921 to bring the stabilization Crutches to the vehicle. The vehicle needed to be secured before any extrication could be started. B/C Thomas along with Firefighter/EMT Melissa Gaughan removed the driver from beneath the vehicle and she was turned over to EMS. B/C Thomas then accessed the vehicle including the stability and prepared a plan for extrication.
B/ C Thomas asked County Communications to re-tone his station for additional firefighters as his crew status was only at seven. B/C Thomas ordered Firefighter Brian Buck, who was driving Engine 921, to prepare the winch cable on the front of 921 for use as stabilization. F/F Buck accomplished this task with the use of Engine 923, which had arrived with three firefighters, which brought the staffing to ten. F/F Buck used rigging to change the direction of the cable from the front of 921 to a tow hook at the rear of 923. The cable was then secured to the vehicle. This prevented the vehicle from traveling onto its roof. Two stabilization crutches were placed at the rear of the vehicle and secured. B/C Thomas continued his assessment of the vehicle and asked communications to dispatch the local towing company with their large tow truck that would have a crane that could reach over to secure the vehicle.
The crews continued to prepare for this difficult extrication and three ground ladders were brought to the vehicle to assist with the extrication. B/C Thomas and Lieutenant Dave McIntyre started the process of removing the bent roof. An O Cutter and glass master tool were placed into service. B/C Thomas, who had climbed the fallen tree, removed the windshield as Lt. McIntyre started cutting the roof posts. Firefighters Gaughan and Ken Snyder, who were now working off ground ladders on the opposite side of the vehicle, brought the 32 spreaders with them. The crew was unable to open the door and it would have to popped. The ladder was footed by Firefighter George Frank, who arrived with Engine 923. The remainder of the crew of 923 were tasked with fire protection and had stretched a 1 .
At this time B/C Thomas asked County Communications to dispatch an Engine from the Almonesson Station. This dispatch brought Engine 932 from the Almonesson Station and Engine 931 from the Good Intent Road Station. The combined staffing of these engines were 8. The departments Safety Officer was also on location. B/C Thomas then special called Quint 946 as this apparatus carried a Hurst Maverick Tool. B/C Thomas wanted to use this tool to pop the drivers door. Quint 946 had an extended response time and B/ C Thomas special called the rescue from the Westville Fire Department.
During this time, B/C Thomas and F/F Gaughan and F/F Snyder worked as a team, lifting the 32 spreader into position to pop the drivers door. This task was accomplished after lifting the setting the spreader into position six times. The door was opened and lifted to the open position. After re-assessing the vehicle again, B/C Thomas requested the airbag protection device. The steering wheel air bag had not deployed and crews were unable to de-energize the vehicle. The airbag protection device was installed and the extrication continued on. At this time the drivers door was pushed to its fullest open position and it was used as a platform for B/C Thomas to get inside the vehicle to assess the passenger. She was found to be conscious but severely injured.
B/C Thomas then called for the 30 and both 60 rams to be brought to the vehicle. Lt. McIntyre was still working on the three roofs posts assessable from the ground. F/F Buck was summoned to the vehicle and used a portable ground ladder to gain access with B/C Thomas. Engines 932 and 931 had arrived and their crews were ordered forward to assist. Lieutenant Bob Taylor from Engine 932 took over as the Incident Commander since B/C Thomas was involved in the extrication and acting in the capacity of the operations officer. Firefighter Justin Skacel climbed down to the ladders to foot the second ladder. The Westville Fire Department Rescue arrived at this time and they were ordered to bring forward their rescue tools.
The task of removing the roof was completed and further access to the patient was obtained at this time. B/C Thomas removed himself from the extrication operation and advised F/F/EMT Gaughan to take his spot inside the vehicle. B/ C Thomas climbed down from the vehicle and made his way to Lt. Taylor where a Transfer of Command took place. Lt Taylor was placed in charge of the operation. The crew of the Westville Rescue, placed addition support crutches at the rear of the vehicle.
The extrication was well over an hour old and the passenger was still well entrapped. The crews of Engine 921 and Rescue 738 continued their extrication process.
One of the issues facing the rescue personnel on the ground at the vehicle was that the tide was now coming in. The rescue personnel that were on the ground were now in knee deep water. This water was hampering the footing of the personnel and the water was rising.
Inside the vehicle there were two 60 rams and a 32 spreader with extension tips making the tool have a 40 spread in service. At this time the winch cable from 921 went lax. B/C Thomas advised Lt. Taylor of this and advised him that the actions inside the vehicle were having a reaction of the vehicle had moved. The crews inside the vehicle were advised of observations from the outside and advised that the vehicle would need to be re-stabilized.
Before this re-stabilization could be accomplished the vehicle slid down the tree, landing back on its wheels. There were six firefighters on the back side of the vehicle operating off of ladders, footing ladders, and operating inside the vehicle. B/C Thomas immediately notified county communication of the vehicle sliding off of the tree and advised that there were firefighters trapped. B/C Thomas requested two additional BLS units and an additional ALS unit. He advised that a Personnel Accountability Report (PAR) was being
completed. B/C Thomas also asked for Chief of Department Steve Hubbs be notified.
In approximately two minutes all six firefighters were accounted for and two were injured. Firefighters George Frank and Justin Skacel were removed from the vehicle and onto the roadway were they were treated by EMS. Firefighter Ken Snyder who was working on a ground ladder managed to jump off the ladder and away from the vehicle, landing in waist deep water, he returned to the vehicle and continued the extrication process. Firefighter/EMT Melissa Gaughan rode the vehicle down and had her right leg temporarily trapped under the car. Due to the water and mud, she freed her leg and continued her treatment of the passenger. Firefighter Brian Buck, who was inside the vehicle, rode it down and then when the car settled, he continued the extrication process. Lieutenant Dave McIntyre, who was on a ground ladder, outside the vehicle leaned away as the vehicle slid down the tree. Lt. McIntyre, now in waist deep water continued the extrication process.
The PAR was completed and the extrication process continued. Firefighter Bryant Fiddler was tasked to the vehicle and to assist with the extrication and removal of the passenger. During this time the passenger was freed, loaded onto a backboard and then a stokes basket and lifted from the car. The passenger was turned over to EMS and was transported to the Trauma Center.
Seventeen minutes after the car sliding off of the tree, the passenger was removed and the extrication completed. It was now 1 hour and 48 minutes into the job.
B/C Thomas summoned all officers and crews to the front of Engine 921 and advised everyone that there will be a 15 minute break in the operation and he wanted everyone to take a moment and get something to drink. After the 15 minute break, all equipment would be picked up and restored.
B/C Thomas met with Lt. McIntyre, F/Fs Gaughan, Snyder, Buck, and Fiddler in the crew area of Engine 921. All of the firefighters advised that they were okay and just wet. All of the wet turnout gear was removed and they were all given sheets and/or blankets to warm them. After discussion with EMS, Chief Hubbs and the EMS Chief, four of the five members were asked to go to the hospital to get checked out for exposure to the cold water.
All of the gear was picked up, stowed and the apparatus made ready for the next assignment.
Six firefighters went to the hospital; all were treated for minor injuries, two for bumps and bruises and four for exposure to the cold water. They were all released.
Unusual and difficult extrication
Communications not following dispatch protocol for Duty Chief
Initial Incident Commander involved in operations
PD not advised of the special called large tow truck
Location of vehicle sideways nose down resting on tree.
Operating hydraulic tools while on ladders
Tide coming in adding water to the incident location
Stabilizing crutches lost footing.
During extrication, the car lost its grip on the tree.
Patient came out easier with car now on its wheels