International Rescue: Buffalo Rescue 1 Teams with Canadian Firefighters to Save Worker Trapped on Ship

Mike Lombardo details the event that took place when a nine-foot-high pile of anchor chain weighing in excess of 50,000 pounds shifted, trapping a worker against the inside wall of a storage locker on a ship.


Aug. 19, 2004, started as a clear and mild day in Port Colborne, Ontario, a city on the south end of the Welland canal that links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Marine Recycling Corp. workers were performing a scrapping operation on the 750-foot lake freighter Tarantu. The operation had left about 150...


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Aug. 19, 2004, started as a clear and mild day in Port Colborne, Ontario, a city on the south end of the Welland canal that links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Marine Recycling Corp. workers were performing a scrapping operation on the 750-foot lake freighter Tarantu. The operation had left about 150 feet of the bow section of the ship remaining.

At approximately 10:20 A.M., 21-year-old Michael Kingston was performing cutting operations when a nine-foot-high pile of anchor chain weighing in excess of 50,000 pounds shifted, trapping him against the inside wall of the storage locker.

At 10:28 the Port Colborne Fire Department received the call for the man trapped in the ship at 3 Lake Road. Engine 1, Ladder 1 and Command 1 responded. Units were on location at 10:34 and found Kingston trapped in the chain locker with only his head visible. His body was surrounded by anchor chain; each link in the 300-foot-long chain weighed about 70 pounds.

Port Colborne Ladder 1 was used to access the ship, positioning its 100-foot aerial at an opening that had been cut into the ship at the second deck level where the victim was located. This opening had been made before to the incident. All personnel and equipment were moved across the water to the ship via the aerial ladder. Port Colborne fire crews, under the direction of Captain Bill Teal as incident commander, cleared the chain around the victim’s chest, pelvis and upper legs in a short time. The chain pinning Kingston’s lower right leg proved more difficult. Additional help was called in the form of Port Colborne volunteer firefighters and off-duty career members. Incident command was transferred to Chief of Department Tom Cartwright.

Paramedic crews from Niagara Regional Emergency Medical Services responded and after assessing the victim started IV lines to provide fluids and a route for pain medication. Blood was also brought to the scene; there was a fear of severe crushing injury that could lead to the victim bleeding to death upon being extricated. A medical helicopter from Toronto was also requested and responded.

Port Colborne crews on the ship, under the direction of Captain Sandy MacIntyre and Acting Captain Terry Czerlau, used a hydraulic combination tool as a spreader to hold the purchase space between the victim and the compartment bulkhead. Firefighters Joe Henry and Rick Smith used a come-along to secure one point of the chain to an overhead structural member. A crane was on hand and was used to tie off to the chain to try and secure it. Any attempt to move the chain from around the victim’s right leg resulted in great pain for Kingston. The chain was on top of the man’s right foot and between his lower and upper leg that was bent at the knee approximately 120 degrees. There was also chain on top of the man’s upper leg.

A decision was made to request a heavy rescue company to respond to the scene. Cartwright contacted the Toronto Fire Department and was told it would take about two hours for its Heavy Urban Search & Rescue Team (HUSAR) to respond. Cartwright then contacted the Buffalo, NY, Fire Department and was connected through the dispatch office with Deputy Commissioner Margaret Keane. A request for Buffalo’s heavy rescue company was approved immediately. Rescue Company 1 was contacted and told that a man was trapped in the hold of a ship by an anchor chain. Captain Mike Lombardo of Rescue 1 decided to also bring the hazmat unit that Rescue 1 operates due to the possible need of air monitoring, communications systems and other equipment carried aboard. Rescue 1 and the hazmat vehicle arrived at the scene arriving in approximately 35 minutes. The Buffalo Fire Department Safety Battalion Chief also responded. The Niagara Regional Police met the Buffalo units at the Peace Bridge and provided an escort to the incident.

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