Ontario Firefighter Rescues Woman From Electrically Charged Vehicle

Aug. 16, 2010
A Fort Erie firefighter pulled a woman from a burning SUV that was electrically charged.
A Fort Erie firefighter in Ontario, Canada rescued a woman from a burning SUV that became electrically charged by a downed power line the night of Aug. 14.

District Chief Doug Whoel and Capt. Robert Puttick arrived on the scene shortly after 9:30 p.m., just seconds after the crash was reported. Both men were off-duty and nearby when they received the call.

Because the incident occurred on the edge of town, the first-due pumper took close to five minutes to arrive.

"Things just lined up perfectly for that lady," Deputy Chief Keith German said. "They were only a mile away."

When Whoel and Puttick arrived, they saw the woman's Rav 4 -- which ran into a power pole before rolling into a ditch -- had a downed power line wrapped around it and there was fire coming from the engine compartment.

The woman was able to make it over to passenger-side seat and Puttick approached the vehicle to assess the woman's injuries.

He noticed that she was twitching and asked her if she had a seizure, but she said no. He then put his hand on the car, and got a jolt.

"That's when I realized the car was energized," he said. "I knew that if she was left in the car any longer, she would have died."

He briefed the woman of the situation and had her put her arms on top of his shoulders and slip his hands under her thighs, lifting her out of the passenger-side window without touching the vehicle's frame.

The woman sustained no serious injuries and was "more shaken from touching the metal and getting shocked" than from the crash itself, Puttick said.

He was only wearing his fire department T-shirt, shorts and a pair of tennis shoes when he made the rescue, since his PPE was on a heavy rescue truck en route to the scene.

"Sometimes you need to look outside the box and do what you have to do," he said. "I was just thinking, 'If I don't do anything, she's going to die in front of me. I've got to do this and I've got to do it right now.' "

After Puttick removed her from the vehicle and got her to safety, the fire began to spread from the engine compartment to the inside of the car.

German commended the 10-year Fort Erie veteran's actions and said that while the pumper was nearing the scene as he assessed the victim, there was no time to waste.

"If he hadn't done what he did -- and broke some cardinal rules -- she wouldn't have survived or at least would have had far more serious injuries," he said. "He took a risk and ended up saving a life."

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