By Gary L. Weiss
The Germantown (WI) Fire Department (GFD) is a combination fire department protecting an area of 34½ square miles and with a population of 20,000. The fire department operates from two strategically located fire stations. GFD responds to approximately 1,600 requests for assistance annually.
On October 6, 2015, at 0027 hours, GFD was dispatched to a reported dump truck rollover with entrapment on Interstate 41 (I-41) at the Freistadt Road overpass. An interstate highway response was dispatched consisting of Engine 64, Engine 62, Ambulance 52, Ambulance 56, and Chief 1.
While en route, the Germantown Police Department (GPD) arrived and reported that the dump truck struck the overpass, causing the truck to rollover and skid down the road. The driver was trapped in the cab, and the vehicle was leaking diesel fuel from both saddle tanks. GFD responders requested that I-41 northbound be closed for operational safety reasons.
On Chief 1’s arrival, a size-up was conducted and an initial action plan was developed. The dump truck had off-loaded its cargo of asphalt approximately a half mile south of the accident at a road paving site. Once emptied, the driver continued north on I-41 but forgot to lower his dump body. The dump body struck the south side the Freistadt Road overpass, causing it to separate from the truck. The GPD estimated that the dump truck was traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour when it impacted the overpass. The truck then rolled over completely and skidded approximately 40 feet down the roadway. The driver was found in the cab, which was upside down. The trapped patient was conscious and alert, but his legs were trapped by the dash and steering column that was collapsed by the weight of the truck. Because of the position of the truck, initial access to the patient was limited. Both diesel fuel tanks were leaking fuel as well as the engine oil, and all of the trucks hydraulic oil was spilling out adding to the hazardous environment.
(1) The Germantown (WI) Fire Department (GFD) assesses the patient. (Photo courtesy of the GFD.)
Command requested a “Flight for Life” emergency medical services helicopter for patient transport. The Richfield (WI) Fire Department was requested to establish a landing zone. Additionally, Homer’s Towing & Service was requested to respond a heavy-duty tow truck to assist in stabilizing the dump truck. On arrival, Engine 64 (commanded by Lieutenant Kevin Schodron), was assigned to extrication operations. Engine 62 (commanded by Captain Robert Asmondy) was assigned as extrication group with his and Engine 64’s crew. Ambulance 52 was assigned patient treatment. Since there was one patient, Ambulance 56 (commanded by Lieutenant Paul Delain) was assigned as hazard control.
RELATED: Livesey on Basic Vehicle Extrication ‖ Training Minutes: Vehicle Stabilization and Glass Removal ‖ White on Extrication Scene Management
Ambulance 56 began hazard control operations using granular absorbents and no-flash spill control liquid. Additionally, Delain had a safety handline deployed into the extrication zone. Delain continued to monitor the hazard zone as the safety officer.
Asmondy determined that the patient was pushed to the passenger’s side of the truck and was unable to move because of his legs being pinned. Visibility inside the cab was extremely limited by debris and damage. The truck was stabilized using multiple rams, and hydraulic extrication tools were used to remove the passenger’s door to gain access to the patient. The hood was removed to allow control of fluids and as a secondary access point to the patient.
(2) The GFD removes the dump truck door.
Once the door was removed, Ambulance 52’s crew made contact with the patient. They determined his left leg was pinned by the dash, steering column, and the weight of the truck. The patient was conscious and alert, but in extreme pain (he rated it as eight out of 10), and very agitated. The patient baseline vials were assessed; he was placed on oxygen, and advanced life support protocols were implemented. As Ambulance 52’s crew was prepared to establish an intravenous (IV) line, the Flight for Life Helicopter arrived, and further treatment was deferred to its crew. The Flight for Life crew, working with Ambulance 52, established intravenous access and administered Ketamine manage the patient’s pain and for sedation.
After removing additional vehicle parts from around the patient and gaining better access to him, Asmondy determined that the patient’s left leg was pinned between the steering wheel and the roadway by the weight of the truck. On arrival of Homer’s Towing & Service, the damaged truck was rigged with chains for a lift operation. Air bags were discussed, but since the tow truck was on scene, Command decided that the lift by the tow truck would be the first option, and air bags would be used as a second option; the third option was to go through the truck firewall.
Under the direction of Schodron, the tow truck began lifting the damaged dump truck at small increments while Asmondy continued to evaluate the level of entrapment and Flight for Life monitored the patient status.
A six-inch lift freed on of the patient’s legs. The lift was stabilized with cribbing, and the patient was removed on a backboard and transferred to the Flight for Life helicopter for transport to Froedtert Memorial Hospital Trauma Center with nonlife-threating injuries. The entire extrication operation took 60 minutes to complete, keeping extrication within the “golden hour” rule.
(3) Homer’s Towing & Service lifts the truck off the patient.
Only minor damage was noted to the bridge because of the impact. A county bridge inspector was requested to evaluate the bridge for structural damage; only minor repairs were needed.
- To ensure a safe operation, it is imperative to have situational awareness and brief incoming crews and to develop an incident action plan on which all group leaders are briefed.
- Early requests for the Flight for Life helicopter aided in patient care and rapid transport to definitive care.
- Early request for the heavy-duty tow truck also reduced the tow companies response time
- GFD has an excellent relationship with Homer’s Towing & Service. Recently, Homer’s Towing & Service provided GFD with a full side coach bus to use for training. Multiple evolutions practicing large vehicle stabilization and extrication techniques were employed. Training together for incidents similar to this paid big dividends. Having those relationship prior to an incident greatly assisted in communication and teamwork.
- During this incident, the incident commander and extrication group leader discussed options. Several alternative operations were available if needed.
- Having a safety officer to continually monitor the scene is important. It would have been more advantageous to have the safety officer as a single resource and not as the hazard group leader.
Early recognition by Command of onsite conditions and requests for additional support units significantly reduced on-scene time. This incident reinforced the advantages of developing relationships with partners prior to an emergency incident, i.e., GFD’s relationship with Homer’s Towing & Service. Ongoing training—in basic and advanced operations—and having operational guidelines that are not only practical but also trained on regularly are key aspects of a successful incident resolution.
Gary L. Weiss is a 35-year fire service veteran and the chief of the Village of Germantown (WI) Fire Department. Weiss has served in various company and command officer positions. He has a master’s degree in occupational safety and health, he is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officers Program, and he has obtained the Chief Fire Officer Designation from the Center of Public Safety Excellence.