Double Crash on the Highway

This month's column draws our attention to three specific areas: Safe driving, road conditions and challenges in controlling the vehicle The seatbelt issue Protecting our personnel while operating on roadways Instead of digging too...


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This month's column draws our attention to three specific areas:

  • Safe driving, road conditions and challenges in controlling the vehicle
  • The seatbelt issue
  • Protecting our personnel while operating on roadways

Instead of digging too deeply on the above issues, I will cover them below with some usable information, ideas and advice, then direct you to related resources where you can get sample policies, procedures and training information for your department, so you don't repeat history.

The Hamilton Township, OH, Fire Department provides emergency medical, fire and rescue services to a population of 5,000 in a 29-square-mile area. The department operates two fire stations within the township and is a part of the Franklin County/Columbus automatic mutual aid response system. Our sincere thanks to Fire Chief Jerry Lupfer, Lieutenant Kyle Witter, Firefighter Kyle Haertling, Firefighter Steve McWilliams, medic student Nicholas Adkins, and the members of the Hamilton Township Fire Department for their cooperation in sharing and passing this critical information along to the fire service.

This account is by Lieutenant Charles K. "Kyle" Witter:

My crew and I were responding to an auto crash on the very busy Interstate 270 and U.S. 23 in the south end of Columbus when the driver of our medic unit, M-171, misjudged an entrance ramp with a concrete barrier wall at the end of it, striking the wall on the driver side front corner. The collision subsequently spun us out of control and flung us into the center median, where we then flipped and came to rest on a guardrail. The driver and I were pinned (I was in the officer seat) for a short time, but were able to get free with the help of the crewmembers in the back of the medic who freed themselves. All of us were transported to Grant Medical Center in Columbus with non-life-threatening injuries.

After our crash, a Franklin County Sheriff's cruiser was struck in the rear while blocking the scene of our wreck. Thankfully, he was not in the cruiser at the time. We received word of this secondary crash while we were being transported to the hospital. The driver of the car that hit the cruiser was drunk, and this guy could have very easily hit our medic unit while we were still in the cab.

Although we are all physically OK, mentally and emotionally this incident was one heck of a wake-up call. This is going to take some time to recover from, and no matter how hard we try, this is something that just can't be dealt with using the "strange" sense of humor we firefighters have when dealing with these sorts of things.

Bottom line -- this wreck could have been much worse, possibly resulting in line-of-duty deaths, but with the use of seatbelts and quick thinking and reaction time of our brother firefighters, we all walked away and went home to kiss and hug our wives and kids.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for the advocacy of seatbelt use on your website FireFighterCloseCalls.com and the Firehouse® Magazine Close Calls column. I sincerely believe that your diligence in these issues saved my life and probably many more to come.

This account is by Firefighter Kyle Haertling, who was in the back of M-171:

I was sitting in the airway seat and the medic student was sitting on the bench seat. I remember explaining to the medic student that just because the dispatch message was "accident with injuries," that doesn't always mean there are going to be injuries, so using dispatch information, but full verification and size-up is critical.

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