"Code 10, Code 10, we need five, we need at least five squads now; we have people down." The frantic radio transmission from Marion County, OH, Sheriff's Deputy B.J. Gruber was the first indication that something terribly wrong had occurred at the scene of what should have been a routine...
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"Code 10, Code 10, we need five, we need at least five squads now; we have people down."
The frantic radio transmission from Marion County, OH, Sheriff's Deputy B.J. Gruber was the first indication that something terribly wrong had occurred at the scene of what should have been a routine transport.
Shortly after 10 P.M. on June 5, 1997, the New Bloomington Volunteer Fire Department along with a medic ambulance from Rural Metro/EMS were dispatched to a cell-phone report of a motor vehicle accident on a country road with wires reported down.
Sources: Marion County Sheriff's Department and The Marion Star/Dave Breeding
As fire, law enforcement and EMS personnel arrived, they surveyed the scene that lay before them. A pickup truck driven by a 28-year-old man had traveled off the right side of the road, severing a high-voltage power pole and coming to rest against approximately 100 feet farther down the road. The semi-conscious driver was lying in the ditch beside his truck, which was partially filled with water from recent flooding. Further complicating the scene were power lines three lines carrying a combined total of 21,600 volts were dangling precariously only four feet off of the ground and almost directly over the patient.
Della Rice, a nurse living across the road, heard the crash and was the first to arrive. Fearing the driver would regain consciousness and inadvertently hit the power lines, she crawled under the lines and began helping the man. With a flashlight she could see that he had head injuries.
Additional rescuers arrived. Nearly all of them recall hearing shouts of warning about the downed power lines. Robert Good, the first paramedic on the scene with Rural Metro and a friend of Rice, was clearly aware of the danger and advised the nurse to "just watch those lines."
Good returned to his ambulance for more equipment, bringing the medic gear, oxygen and a plastic backboard to the victim. Concerned for the safety of his partner, Shannon Kisner, Good ordered her to remain on the road and off the grass. Then, Good carefully crawled under the still-energized power lines, joining at least four other rescuers in an attempt to extricate the now-combative patient. Eventually, nine people were in or close to the water-filled ditch trying to treat the motorist and secure him to the backboard.
As fire and EMS personnel tried to figure which was the safest way back out to the road, another power line from the severed pole was found. Fearing that line also was energized, the rescuers decided to go under the dangling lines instead of stepping over them or walking what was thought to be an unreasonable distance through the water-filled ditch and unsafe footing.
Rice later told investigators that as the rescuers slid the backboard under the power lines and up the embankment, the restrained patient became even more combative. "There must have been six of us in the water trying to restrain him," she said.
Stooped over and with some rescuers crawling on hands and knees, the patient was slowly inched up the embankment. As he cleared the power lines along with Rice and New Bloomington Fire Lieutenant James Johnson, Good again shouted for everyone to watch out for the power lines and pushed Rice forward toward the roadway and out of harm's way.
Photo by Dwight Wells
Four crosses initially marked the location of the accident that claimed the lives of three rescuers and a motorist.
At that moment, Gruber (carrying a flashlight and oxygen bottle) saw the shoulder of Scioto Valley Firefighter Brian Roshon, who was assisting with the backboard, come in contact with one of the power lines carrying 7,200 volts of electricity. How this happened is unclear Rushon either brushed against the wire or, as some said, the wire fell on him. Everyone in contact with the backboard or close to it received the electrical shock.