Two Responding FDNY Rigs Collide

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Oct. 24--A dozen New York City firefighters were hurt -- including a seriously injured driver who got trapped in an overturned vehicle -- when two trucks rushing to a gas leak collided in a Brooklyn intersection Saturday morning, officials said.

Witnesses described a collision between Engine Company No. 236 and Ladder Company No. 107 at the corner of Ashford Street and Hegeman Avenue in the East New York neighborhood.

The 9:43 a.m. crash caused the ladder truck to flip on one side and slide into a tree, trapping the hurt driver inside for about two hours as dozens of emergency personnel worked to free him. The engine was knocked over a curb and onto a front lawn.

Everett Groves, 63, the superintendent of a building at the intersection, said he was outside when he heard sirens.

"I see this engine coming this way, I mean flying . . . horns blowing," he said. He described the engine, which was headed west on Hegeman Avenue, hitting the rear side of the ladder truck, which was headed north on Ashford.

"The impact was tremendous," he said. "You know the impact had to be something to hit that truck off the ground."

All 12 firefighters on the two trucks required medical attention. Four were seriously hurt, and eight had less serious injuries, according to an FDNY spokesman.

The driver of the ladder truck, identified as firefighter Robert Puppa, remained trapped until about 12 p.m., and Lt. Kevin Washington, a 27-year veteran, suffered an unspecified skeletal injury, possibly a broken leg.

Both were in serious condition at The Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center. Other firefighters were taken to Kings County Hospital Center and Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

Mark Brown, 46, an electrician who was walking to a supermarket at the time, said the engine "slammed on the brakes" but was not able to stop in time. "It was not a yield," he said.

FDNY spokesman Jim Long said both trucks were responding with sirens and lights to a "gas leak emergency" in the 700 block of Warwick Street, one block west of the crash site.

Long said the gas leak turned out to be legitimate but could not immediately say who responded.

Station houses for Engine Company 236 and Ladder Company 107 are about a mile from each other and within a mile-and-a-half of the crash site.

Firefighters at the ladder company's station house on Lincoln Avenue refused to comment.

- With Ted Phillips and Daniel Edward Rosen