Mass. Crews Go All in to Save Elderly Couple

May 26--A elderly man and woman -- belted into their submerged, overturned Buick -- were saved this morning by cops and firefighters who jumped in the frigid Nashua River and fought to right the car and get them out.

"They're very fortunate that car was able to be flipped over," Fitchburg Fire Capt. Brian Murchie said of the herculean effort by approximately eight firefighters, police officers and EMTS. "They were fighting the current and lifting a four-door sedan from its roof. Neither one of them had a pulse at the time. En route to the hospital, they both regained a pulse."

Murchie said the couple -- a man, 85, and woman, 80, both of Fitchburg -- have the same last name, but it was not immediately clear what their relationship was.

Both were hospitalized in intensive care. Their names were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Fitchburg police Sgt. Mark Jackson said one of his cops cut his hand helping right the waterlogged, 4,000-pound car. He required stitches.

"Hopefully, the victims will make it," Jackson said. "I commend the efforts of the police officers who responded and all the other first responders and citizens who responded. The guys are going to be OK. A lot of times we end up on the wrong end of these incidents. At least we gave them a fighting chance."

An off-duty Fitchburg police officer, Todd Deacon, was grabbing breakfast at the nearby Barb's Riverside Cafe on Westminister Street just before 8:45 a.m. when people started pointing toward the river. Deacon ran outside to help, Jackson said, as cruisers and fire engines were racing to the scene.

Jackson said the water was up to the waist of one officer who stands 6 feet 2 inches.

"Because of all the rain, I'm sure the water level was absolutely higher than general," he said. "It was extremely cold."

Murchie said it took the strength of eight men to turn the car over and get the occupants' heads out of the water while emergency crews got to work extricating them with the Jaws of Life.

"How long they were in the water total, I couldn't even hazard a guess," Murchie said. "They went down about a 15-foot embankment into the river."

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