TECH RESCUE: NJ Technical Rescue Team Pulls Injured Man from Shaft

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, NJ, JAN. 19, 2012 – Farmington Volunteer Fire Company 4 of the Egg Harbor Township Fire Department, the Egg Harbor Township Technical Rescue Team (TRT) and the Egg Harbor Township Ambulance Squad were dispatched at 1:01 A.M. to the old Atlantic City Electric Co. office building on Black Horse Pike (U.S. Route 322) for a report of a man down inside a shaft. The building has been boarded up for years, but it is a frequent site of vandalism and burglaries.

The Egg Harbor Township Fire Department protects a 63-square-mile area with five volunteer fire companies – Bargaintown, Cardiff, Farmington, Scullville and West Atlantic City – operating out of eight stations. The department is commanded by township Fire Chief William Danz Jr. and each company also has a chief officer

The TRT is comprised of all segments of the township’s emergency services (police, fire and EMS). Several vehicles carry different components needed to carry out technical rescues. The official TRT vehicle is housed at Cardiff Station 2, but Farmington Unit 1546 and Tower 15, housed at Cardiff Station 1, carry most of the equipment. The team is under the command of Lieutenant David White of the Cardiff Volunteer Fire Company, with all team members certified in basic first aid, CPR, and confined-space and high-angle rescue. Some TRT members also are certified EMTs.

Farmington Chief Leonard Tilley arrived within five minutes of dispatch. Police led him to the rear of the building, where a man was at the bottom of an exterior shaft. Tilley radioed a request to Cardiff Chief Rob Winkler, whose station was responding with the TRT vehicle and the 100-foot Tower 15, to position the tower at the rear of the building. He then requested Farmington Utility 1546, which carries the bulk of the TRT equipment, to position behind the tower.

The next step was to access the victim, who was in a corner at the bottom of a 15-foot-deep concrete shaft that was approximately 20 by 10 feet wide. The victim was complaining of fractures and was in considerable pain. An extension ladder was lowered into the shaft, letting EMTs and TRT members reach the patient and begin an assessment. The patient had an open compound fracture of one ankle with possible fractures of his other ankle and one leg. Tower 15 was positioned as close to the site as possible and raised its boom over the shaft.

While the rigging and equipment was being set up, EMS advised Tilley it was requesting a medevac helicopter to transport the victim. Tilley ordered the crew of Farmington Engine 1543 and Assistant Farmington Chief Dennis Sharpe to set up a landing zone on the other side of the complex in a parking lot. Sharpe notified Egg Harbor Township dispatch of the landing zone and was advised that South Jersey Medevac was responding with a seven-minute arrival time upon being airborne.

After EMS prepared the patient for removal from the shaft, he was packaged into a Stokes basket and hoisted from the shaft by using a 4:1 rigging with Tower 15 used as a high point. At no time were the mechanicals of Tower 15 used. Once out of the shaft, the patient was transported to the landing zone by ambulance, then airlifted from the scene. Atmospheric monitoring was conducted throughout the incident.

A post-incident discussion revealed several lessons learned. Egg Harbor Township Police, in responding to the call, entered the complex off Black Horse Pike. Upon investigating a van at the scene, police found several steel grates in the vehicle that had been taken from over-the-ground stormwater basins. If police and the fire department had entered the property from any other direction, police cars and fire apparatus might have been seriously damaged. Vacant and abandoned properties deserve as much attention as any other responses for pre-planning. Deaths and serious injuries occur at these sites, and this property has seen numerous responses by police and the Cardiff and Farmington fire companies. As recently as Jan. 5, a theft of pipe caused a flood and the shutdown of the sprinkler system.