LEFT - The lift window on this Chevy Blazer broke during the rollover, allowing rescuers to access the trapped driver. A rescuer could now reach inside and operate the release handle to lower the tailgate. If it is jammed, the latches are positioned on both sides at the D-pillars.
RIGHT - The fiberglass roof on this older-model Ford Bronco fractured in the crash. If there is a need to open the tailgate to gain extra working room at the rear of the vehicle, the spare tire and bracket has to be swung up or removed. In this scenario, the roof should not be trusted for any stability of the vehicle.
LEFT - This Ford Explorer rolled over in a residential neighborhood. The lift glass on this Ford Explorer opened simply by pushing the release button on the liftgate. This allowed initial patient contact. Since the button worked, it means two things to rescue personnel; the vehicle's electrical system is intact and the doors are all unlocked. The liftgate could now be opened by pulling on the release handle just above the license plate. This would provide enough open area to bring out patients on a longboard. Note the lifter struts for the lift window.
RIGHT - There are several safety concerns to consider if the rear of this Jeep needs to be opened. Vehicle stabilization is the first consideration. Hazard control is another. You can see the classic indicators of design features on this Jeep. The black handle on the glass, the two strut mounting buttons and the pair of hinges all indicate that you are dealing with a lift window. The handle near the license plate is a telltale sign that you also have a liftgate design. Remember, if the lift window opens on its hinges, it will open downward. It will have to be climbed over as personnel enter the vehicle. If the liftgate is to be opened, it will be heavy and will drop down onto the personnel opening it. Make sure that opening the liftgate does not compromise vehicle stability.
LEFT - The lift window of this 2002 Jeep Liberty was opened for initial patient contact. The tailgate design is unusual in that it hinges on one side and opens like a door. Fortunately in this case, the tailgate and the spare tire mounted on it opened and laid flat on the street. This provided a 100% rear opening. If this were a Honda CRV that rolled over, the swinging tailgate is hinged on the passenger's side and would have to be opened upward. That would be a much more difficult assignment at a crash scene. Tailgate removal may be advised in that situation.
RIGHT - At a minivan crash, opening the rear liftgate provides an almost instantaneous 100% opening and access to the occupant area. Remember, there can be seven or eight seated and belted people inside this vehicle as you open the liftgate. Occupants inside can be accessed quickly and patients can be longboarded out this easy to make opening. Opening the liftgate is more complicated when all doors have been locked. If the liftgate isn't jammed and you want to open it, have an inside medic hit the power unlock button on the driver's door control panel prior to shutting down the vehicle's electrical system. A mother and two children were extricated out this open liftgate of their Toyota minivan. One child was restrained in his car seat and still was able to be passed out through this opening.
LEFT - Once stabilized and hazards controlled, access to the interior can be gained quickly through any door that opens, the open side windows and the smashed rear lift window. Opening the tailgate would be difficult. It would actually open upward in this case and would be difficult to keep up in this position. The weight of the full-size spare tire alone makes opening the tailgate not practical. If necessary, the tailgate may have to be removed.
RIGHT - This Toyota Land Cruiser has a framed rear lift window and a tailgate feature. The glass broke during the rollover, but the lift window's metal frame is still closed. If the rear of this SUV needed to be opened further, this frame would open normally with a key and lower to the ground. Potentially in the way during the rescue, total removal by cutting the hinges or the frame itself may be a good follow-up action. The tailgate opens upward in this case. It would be difficult to keep this tailgate up out of the way and in reality it is not worth the effort.
LEFT - What rear design features are present? Logos at the rear tell you this is a Toyota 4Runner. There are no hinges visible along the roofline; no lift handle on the glass. The wiper arm is mounted above the glass and the glass appears to be covered along all its edges. Indications are that this is a power window that normally retracts inside a tailgate or a liftgate. The seams running along the rear taillights do not continue up the rear roof pillars. This is a good indication that the vehicle has a tailgate, not a liftgate. The release handle will be along the license plate or on the inside panel of the tailgate itself.
RIGHT - Opening the rear liftgate of this Plymouth Voyager minivan will provide good rear access to any patients seated in the third seat. The liftgate has a center latch centered along the floorline. Although the sidewall has received a hard impact, the tailgate may still open normally.
LEFT - The fiberglass liftgate on this Jeep Cherokee broke open during this rollover crash in Allen, TX. This provided a sufficient opening for the two trapped patients inside to be removed.
RIGHT - Forcible entry at the rear of a new Chevy Tahoe required the lift window glass to be broken first. Next, the center-mounted latch for the lift window frame was forced open. The tailgate remained closed and was unable to be opened normally.
The safety latches that hold the tailgate shut are located at each side, near the taillight assembly. Forcing the tailgate required that each latch be attacked individually. The problem was that the plastic taillight assembly failed as soon as the prying started. Rescuers could not get enough of a grip to pry the safety latches apart with this horizontal spreader attack.
By placing the spreader vertically inside the vehicle, the inside arm was able to push against the inside of the rear roof post. This allowed the outer arm to force the tailgate open by pushing it out from the inside. This attack worked very well.
This final part of this three-part series features case studies of real-world crash incidents where openings made at the rear of the damaged vehicle allowed responders to access or extricate their patients.
Subject: Rear Design Features of Vehicles: Part 3
Topic: Working with Rear Design Features at Crash Scenes
Objective: Develop strategies for working with the rear design features of vehicles at real-world crash scenes.
Task: Practice identifying rear design features and develop strategies for opening the rear of a vehicle for patient access or extrication work.
This final part of this three-part series features case studies of real-world crash incidents where openings made at the rear of the damaged vehicle allowed responders to access or extricate their patients. In addition, an example of forcible entry procedures for opening the rear of a late-model Chevy Tahoe vehicle are shown.
Review the images presented and practice identifying the rear design feature present based on the visual clues shown. Develop strategies for handling rear access and extrication situations if you were to encounter them at your next crash scene.
In addition, review the procedures detailed in the forcible entry work done on the Tahoe vehicle. Integrate the lessons learned from this example into your department