Loaded Cement Truck Vs. SUV: A Mighty Heavy Vehicle Extrication

Jeff Hood, Bill Lowe and Earl Watson discuss what happened when a fully loaded cement truck weighing 34 tons flipped over and landed on top of a sport utility vehicle, trapping both drivers.


For the officers and firefighters assigned to Clayton County, GA, Fire Department Station 5, Sept. 24, 2003, was going to get real busy, real soon. Just three hours into the crew’s shift, Engine 5 and Medic 5, an advanced life support (ALS) ambulance, were dispatched to a “vehicle accident...


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For the officers and firefighters assigned to Clayton County, GA, Fire Department Station 5, Sept. 24, 2003, was going to get real busy, real soon. Just three hours into the crew’s shift, Engine 5 and Medic 5, an advanced life support (ALS) ambulance, were dispatched to a “vehicle accident with injuries – cement truck overturned on an SUV at Georgia Highway 138 at Walt Stephens Road.” The intersection was one mile from the station and the units arrived in less than three minutes.

CLAYTON COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Chief: Alex S. Cohilas
PersonneL: 300 career firefighters
Apparatus: Nine ALS engines, five BLS engines, two ladder trucks, eight ALS ambulances, one heavy rescue, one air/ light unit
Population: 260,000
Area: 144 square miles

As the officer of Engine 5, Lieutenant Terry Ivey, approached the scene, he immediately determined this call was going to demand many additional resources. A fully loaded cement truck weighing 34 tons had flipped over and landed on top of a sport utility vehicle. The SUV driver was pinned, since the entire driver’s side of her vehicle was crushed due to the cement truck’s enormous weight. Additionally, the cement truck driver was trapped in the wreckage as well.

Scene Assessment

Initially, crowd control was a concern because of the large number of bystanders who sought to aid the victims. The severity of the crash and the cement truck’s heavy structural strength greatly increased the complexity of the extrication efforts. One fortunate aspect of the accident was that there were only two patients – the drivers from both vehicles; there were no passengers in either vehicle.

Ivey established “138 Command” and requested the following additional resources: a ladder truck, a heavy rescue squad, an additional ALS ambulance, one EMS shift supervisor and one fire shift supervisor. While waiting for reinforcements to arrive, Ivey directed the EMS crew to treat the SUV driver, and tasked his engine EMT to start treatment on the cement truck driver. Additionally, police officers and sheriff deputies rerouted traffic and established a police line to keep bystanders away from the large and complex emergency scene.

Ivey quickly determined that two separate vehicle extrications had to be performed at the same time. He followed the department’s five-step vehicle extrication standard operating procedure to ensure premier patient care was delivered, and the maximum coordination/utilization of resources:

The accident caused the cement truck to flip over, landing on the driver’s side, so the driver was slammed hard as the truck impacted the road. The 44-year-old driver was found semiconscious with head and chest injuries. An additional complication was that the driver was trapped inside the cab by a collapsed steering wheel. Rescuers punched out the windshield and a firefighter/EMT entered the cab to begin assessing and treating the driver.

Another hazard to scene safety was a diesel fuel spill from the cement truck’s saddle tanks and approximately 25 gallons of hydraulic fluid leaking from the tumbler. As a countermeasure, a hydrocarbon emulsifier was sprayed on the fuel to reduce its flammability, and a charged attack line was manned to confront the fuel spill threat. A hydraulic rescue tool was used to cut the corner posts of the cement truck and the roof was lifted to increase access for patient care and spinal immobilization. The patient was placed on a long backboard with cervical collar, oxygen and EKG monitoring. He was transported by an ALS ambulance to the hospital without incident.

Complicated Rescue

The SUV’s driver entrapment was quite profound given that the driver’s side of the SUV was collapsed to the center of the vehicle. The roof was collapsed to the level of the hood. Ivey directed that the wheels of the SUV be chocked to ensure the vehicle could not move. The concern was that the SUV was still running with the transmission in drive, and the weigh of cement truck was keeping the SUV from moving. The rescuers could not access the key to turn the vehicle off because of the extensive damage, so the engine compartment was pried opened and the battery cables were cut to kill the engine.

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