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Last month’s column featured part one of a report about a close call involving City of Dayton, OH, Fire Department Captain Barry Cron, who was struck by a pickup truck while operating at a traffic accident scene in wintry weather. This month’s conclusion focuses on the lessons learned.
Take a look at these two videos to get more perspective on the incident: “Ohio Fire Captain Barry Cron Survives Crash,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGv0oNZChc; and “Dayton Fire Captain Barry Cron,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1DTSUdaLhs.
The following comments are by Captain Barry Cron:
I have had a lot of time to think about the accident and what I would or would not have done differently. Although my department and fellow Dayton firefighters were very supportive of me, I received criticism from afar (and from myself) about why I made the decision to be where I was in the first place. Trust me, nobody is a bigger critic of the incident than me. It took several weeks before I stopped replaying the incident every waking minute in my head, waking up in the middle of the night only to go over it again and again. I would like to explain some of the decisions I made to hopefully let the reader understand the thought process I had. Then he or she can decide whether they were good choices or bad and how they might do it differently.
On arrival of an accident scene, we do, as practice, block all lanes we feel necessary to create a safe zone. We make every effort to angle the apparatus away from the scene and protect the work area as much as possible. On arrival at this scene, we did not angle the ladder. As I stated (in part one), the Dayton Police Department (DPD) had the closest lane blocked, we parked in the second lane and I thought pretty effectively boxed in the scene. In retrospect, I should have directed my driver to block in front of the DPD cruiser, taking both lanes. Even though the additional vehicles that slid into the accident scene were on the other side of the highway, if it had occurred on our side, it’s always better to have a 26-ton vehicle running interference for you rather than a 1½-ton police car. This is something I usually attempt to do, but did not on this run.
Up to the point of the second vehicle impacting, I feel we had a pretty good handle on our scene on our side of the guardrail. I was not allowing our crews on the other side of the guardrail until I was assured we had eastbound shut down, or at least apparatus in place to block for us. It was a fairly routine accident scene with a slight twist as to the position of the vehicle requiring us to work on both sides of the highway.
I think the only question that still lingers is “Why did you put yourself in the position you did?” It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback and say I should have never approached the truck until I was assured the eastbound lanes were completely closed or blocked. That is a valid argument and I will never argue against it. The only answer I have is, I guess you never really know what you’ll do until presented with a situation.
My intent was to get a quick assessment of the occupant(s) of that truck and get back quickly to formulate the new game plan. Things just happened too quickly. Did I look upstream of the accident scene to assess what traffic was coming and whether there would be a break in the traffic to allow me to more safely approach the truck? Honestly, I still don’t remember whether I did or how effectively I did.
As I have driven through that section of highway many times since, I see that even if I had, a slight rise in the highway would have blocked my vision of oncoming traffic and limited what traffic I had seen to only several hundred feet up the road anyway. Being in the dark, early-morning hours, I may not have seen that rise in the highway. In the few seconds it took to approach the truck and look inside to assess, many vehicles traveling around 50 mph could have crested that rise.