Mesa, Arizona firefighters made a dramatic rescue Tuesday when a truck flipped over and ignited after crashing into a fuel pump, trapping a grandfather and two children inside.
After the crash at about 3:40 p.m., 40 firefighters rotated for 2 hours in the 100 degree heat to free the grandfather's legs, in one of the most complex extrications the department has ever handled, said Capt. John Jayne.
Firefighters arrived at the crash scene to find the Dodge Ram truck, which was pulling a 30-foot trailer, on its side at a fuel pump at a Circle K convenience store. The truck had also taken out a light pole, a bus stop, and several other vehicles on its way to the gas pump, officials said.
Bystanders immediately rushed to the scene with a fire extinguisher and pulled out the two children, ages nine and six, but the grandfather was still trapped when firefighters arrived.
Crews put out the remaining fire and used every resource they had, Jayne said, to extricate the driver.
"We used everything - cutters, spreaders, the Hearst tool, Ajax tool... and we did get him out," Jayne said. The vehicle had flipped onto the driver's side, pinning the driver's legs under the dashboard and his feet under the pedals. In addition, his legs were crossed over, which added to the difficulty, Jayne said.
The rescuers also used multiple sets of hydraulic tools and worked from both above and below the vehicle to cut out the floor board, pull back the dash and pull everything apart to remove the driver.
The 60-year-old grandfather was conscious but had several fractures on his legs. Rescuers administered IVs and oxygen at the scene, as well as a mister which was extremely beneficial to both the patient and the firefighters, Jayne said. Mesa firefighters commonly work in extreme heat, but not for such a prolonged period of time, the captain said.
The firefighters even had a surgeon en route to possibly amputate the man's legs, because, "Originally we just weren't sure," Jayne said.
With the combination of the heat and the complications, "This was most definitely one of the most difficult extrications the department has handled," Jayne said.
The children were transported by Southwest Ambulance for minor injuries, and the grandfather was flown to a local trauma center. There were a total of eight patients at the scene, including three others who were transported to hospitals, primarily for neck and back pain. The other patients were in vehicles struck by the driver, including one at the fuel pump. Two cars sustained heavy damage and a third sustained moderate damage. Jayne said the cause of the accident is under investigation.