Rising water threatens trapped driver
Fire and rescue personnel in Lincoln, R.I., raced to free an accident victim trapped inside a car as approximately 3500 gpm of water gushed from a broken main into a gully where the vehicle had overturned.
The 19-year-old victim struck a hydrant, ripping it off the water main. The car rolled several times before landing in a ravine on the side of the road, tossing the victim and pinning him face up between the back seat and the crushed roof.
The Lincoln police arrived on the scene at 7:22 p.m., last Dec. 19, and requested two pumpers from the Lime Rock Fire Department and a rescue vehicle from the Lonsdale Fire Department. One of the police officers, a volunteer fire fighter with the Lime Rock department, radioed Fire Chief Oliver H. J. Perry to be prepared for drafting operations. The town’s water department was also summoned.
As the hydraulic rescue tool widened the car’s back window, from which the victim’s head was protruding, two 1000-gpm pumpers drafted approximately 1500 gpm of water into a gully on the opposite side of the road. Due to the buildup of leaves on the screens of the suction hoses, the pumpers couldn’t move their full 2000 gpm.
During rescue operations, which took 10-15 minutes, emergency personnel had to raise the victim’s head to keep the water from reaching his nose and mouth. In addition, the victim was going into shock from exposure to the 22° temperatures.
At one point in the drafting operations, the suction screens became clogged with leaves and debris. When a fire fighter waded into the gully to clean the screens, he slipped into a 6-foot deep hole made by the strong hydrant flow when it was knocked down by the car’s impact.
Although the pumpers were fighting what appeared to be a losing battle against the rising water, they did keep the water level low enough for the victim to be safely pulled through the car’s rear window. The victim was then transported to Fogarty Memorial Hospital; he suffered no serious injuries.
The water department arrived after the rescue had been completed.