Abbs Valley, Va.-- An emergency vehicle operated by a firefighter who was responding to a structure fire at an Abbs Valley residence slipped off the road, flipped on its side and rolled from the highway into a 15-foot-deep ravine, pinning the driver in the wreckage for about 45 minutes.
Steven Russell Mitchell, 44, of Bluefield, Va., assistant chief of the Abbs Valley-Boissevain Volunteer Fire Department was the lone occupant of the vehicle. Emergency responders from Tazewell Fire and Rescue, the Bluefield, Va., Rescue Squad, Abbs Valley-Boissevain, and Bishop Volunteer Fire Department used emergency "rams" and reciprocating saws to cut through the metal and free Mitchell from the wreckage.
Mitchell was traveling west on Virginia State Route 644, about five miles west of Abbs Valley Elementary School shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, when he lost the brakes on the 1978 Chevrolet tanker truck he was driving, according to Trooper J.R. Carpenter of the Virginia State Police.
"He told me at the scene that he had just gotten the truck out of the shop," Carpenter said. "He said he pushed down on the brake pedal and it went all the way to the floor. The skid marks at the scene were yawl marks, which is consistent with what he told me. The truck was going way too fast and he was trying to stop it." Carpenter said the momentum of the water in the tanker was a factor in the way the vehicle rolled into the ravine.
"Tazewell County Fire and Rescue Squad 2 was on the scene of a structure fire (west of the accident scene) and the victim here was responding to that fire," Lt. Seth Allison of Tazewell County Fire and Rescue said. "Squad 2 left the scene of the fire and came here to the wreck site while Squad 1 was dispatched to the crash scene from Tazewell."
Allison said that Squad 2 started the rescue, and that Squad 1 as well as the Bluefield, Va., Rescue Squad arrived on scene at about the same time. A group of 25 or more rescue squad members all worked to extricate Mitchell from the tanker truck. Mitchell's vehicle came to a stop resting on the passenger side. Emergency responders cut open the driver's side of the vehicle to extricate Mitchell.
Deputy T.W. Carroll of the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department was also on scene and assisted Carpenter in the investigation.
Paramedics from the Bluefield, Va., Rescue Squad transported Mitchell to the elementary school parking lot that had been set up as a landing zone for a Med Flight helicopter that transported Mitchell to Bristol Regional Medical Center. Mitchell waved in the direction of a crowd that had gathered at the crash site as if to indicate that he was OK, but emergency responders on scene did not speculate as to the victim's condition.
Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Republished with permission of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.