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Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
December 6, 2002     Cape Gazette
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December 6, 2002
 

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CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, Dec.6--l)-ec. 12,2002 - 21 Anatomy7 of an unprecedented rescue Eight teams save two fives By Kerry Kester Two people were critically in- jured in what many rescue work- ers agreed was one of the most un- usual traffic crashes they have ever seen. A total of 13 units from eight agencies and four hospitals were involved in rescuing three people from a two-vehicle colli- sion at approximately 1:30 p.m., Nov. 29. The two who were hos- pitalized remain in critical condi- tion. 'q'his is the one that shows you that no matter how long you've been in the business, you've not yet seen it all," said Sussex Emer- gency Medical Services (EMS) Director Glenn Luedtke. "I've been on [the fire'compa- ny] for 22 years, almost 23 years, and I've never seen anything this complicated," said Chris Quillen, the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company deputy chief and officer in charge of the firefighters at the scene. The crash occurred when Pamela A. Eckert, 55, of Dallas- town, Pa., was driving a 2000 Ply- mouth Neon westbound on Route 24 and crossed the center line. William E. Arnold, 47, of Felton, Pa., was operating a one-ton 2000 Chevrolet pickup truck in the east- bound lane. Evidence suggests he had a moment's notice the Neon was aimed directly for him, but he was unable to avoid the crash and the front driver's side of the Neon struck the front driver's side of the truck. Both operators were injured and trapped in their vehicles. A pas- senger in the truck - Ted R. Vaughn, 23, of Shrewsbury, Pa. - sustained only minor injuries and was able to exit the vehicle. He was treated at Beebe Medical Cen- ter, then released. One of the factors that made the crash particularly difficult was the truck was hauling an estimated 1,000 pounds of chopped wood. "At impact, everything in the back is pushed forward," said Cpl. Mike Nelson of the Delaware State Police Fatal Accident Inves- tigation and Reconstruction team. The car appears to have been traveling at about the speed limit - 50 mph - but evidence does not show the vehicle began to slow. Police still do not know what caused Eckert to leave her lane of travel; alcohol was not a factor. The truck, however, left skid marks and gouges in the road, sug- gesting Arnold began applying the brakes. When the vehicles collid- ed, the momentum of the wood pushed the forward end of the truck downward into the dirt on the south edge of the roadway, and the dashboard area was then pushed into Arnold, who was not wearing a seat belt. All hands on deck "There's a choreography about accident scenes," said Luedtke. In this case, Rehoboth firefighters, f'n-e police and ambulance person- nel met troopers and medics at the scene. Soon afterward, Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) offered help, Indian River Volunteer Fire Company fire police stepped in, Mid Sussex Rescue Squad arrived and Lewes Fire Department deployed person- nel. Fire police cordoned, off a cou- ple of miles of Route 24, diverting traffic to side roads. Black Friday traffic was heavy, and there were backups along many of those roads. Fire police and DelDOT employees assisted in keeping traffic moving on the alternative routes. Route 24 was blocked for a little more than two hours. Paramedic Lars Granholm said the first thing that occurs at any scene is firefighters and para- medics assess the vehicles and hazards such as fluids, broken glass, bent steel, power lines, traf- fic and weather. In this ease, para- medics learned there was only one occupant in the car and two in the truck, and the hazards to rescue personnel were minimal. The fire departments immedi- ately stabilized the vehicles so medics could work on patients. Then the extrications began. "We probably had four rescue tools in operation simultaneously," said Quillen, who said only one is used at a more typical crash site. Granholm said Eckert did not require any rapid medical inter- ventions. Firefighters cut the steering wheel in her car, removed the side doors and the B-post be- tween the front and back of the Car. However, she was trapped, said Quillen. Nelson explained every vehicle has what is known as the safety zone - essentially the immediate vicinity for each designated seat. He said he has often investigated crashes that showed the safety zone remained intact, but the vic- tim was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and died. Nelson said police determined Eckert was wearing her seat belt and the car's air bags deployed. "In this case, she stayed exactly where she was supposed to," said Nelson. "That helps reduce injury." The first thing paramedics do is get vital signs, and when they checked Eckert's, hers were good, said G-ranholm. It took 35 minutes to extricate her from the vehicle, and she was then transported by ground to Beebe Medical Center. After being stabilized at Beebe, she was flown to Christiana Hos- pital, a Level I trauma center, where she underwent surgery and was treated for internal injuries and broken bones. Granholm explained medics al- so try to mentally reconstruct a crash to determine what kinds of injuries they should look for. When Granholm arrived at the truck, his task was formidable. Since the steering wheel was bent and was pinning Arnold to the seat, Granholm knew chest in- juries were likely. 'q'he problem with assessing this man was we Continued on page 22 Kerry Kester photos Delaware State Police'atal Accident Invesigation and Reconstruction (FAIR) team mem- ber Cpl. Lad Dick takes photos of the 2000 Plymouth Neon that caused the crash. FAIR team members collect evidence from crash sites in much the same way techncians gather evidence at crime scenes. Rescuers at the scene said gaining access to the victim in the pickup truck was among the most difficult they had encountered because the damage to the front end of the truck was so severe. Above shows what remained of a 2000 Chevrolet pickup truck after rescue teams finished extracting the victim. Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company Deputy Chief Chris Quillen said rescuers unloaded the wood and removed the cage from the pickup truck'to provide access to the vic- tims from the front and rear of the vehicle - an unusual ap- proach.