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Friday, July 3, 2009

TC With Fire


This post may contain graphic descriptions, photos and/or commentary that may be found offensive to some readers. In writing this post I tried to balance victim privacy and respect for the family with the desire to share exactly what I experienced. I have omitted some pictures and edited my comments because of this.

At a little before three in the afternoon we were toned out. "Medic Engine 461, MBA, Medic Engine 121, respond for a TC with fire at highway 62, cross of T. Circle." As we turned out of the station onto the highway we could see the header (a column of smoke from the fire). As we approached the scene we had traffic backing up. This almost always means that we have a bad wreck. As we approached we noticed that there was one patient with what looked like significant burns. We also noted that there was an older model suburban that was totally involved with fire and that the fire had already extended into the surrounding brush. I quickly grabbed the bumper line and flaked out the hose while Grant grabbed the tools. Just as I was getting water Medic Ambulance 122 pulled up. Eric directed the paramedic to the patient sitting to the West of the accident. I started at the front right side of the suburban and worked my way around to the far side. Once there I knocked down the fire in the brush. While I was working back around the front of the vehicle to finish knocking the fire down there I heard Eric call my name and asked me to confirm that there was one fatality. It wasn't until this point, when some of the smoke cleared, that I could see that someone did not make it out of the vehicle.

Since the fire was knocked down Eric asked me to go start helping out with patient care while he and Grant finished extinguishing the fire. Just as I walked up MBA showed up. I found out that there were two patients and MBA started working on the second one. My patient had been the passenger in the Suburban and had sustained second and third degree burns to about 60% of his body. We quickly stripped him of his clothes, did a quick head to toe exam, covered him in burn sheets (to try to stop infection), placed him on a backboard and started two large bore IV's. As soon as he was packaged he was transported to the trauma center. From what I heard the other patient (the driver of the van) had sustained second and third degree burns to his left arm and chest. He also was severely hypotensive so he too was rushed to the trauma center.

This is what we saw and heard while approaching the scene.

From this angle it just looks like a bad wreck.

Here you can actually see the burns on the drivers side.

The driver had to climb out the back of his van.

I have no doubt that his seat belt and airbag saved his life.

This is the burnt out Suburban.

After rescue operation were completed we had to stay on scene and wait for the coroner (and the body recovery team). After they showed up the coroner took his photos for the investigation. We then had to disentangle the body from the vehicle. We popped the front passenger door off and grabbed the body bag. I then had to climb into the vehicle to guide the body out from the inside. To be respectful to the deceased I will not describe in detail the sights, sounds or smells that accompanied the task of body recovery. After the body was placed in the body bag we placed him in the coroners van.

Here is a short video of the auto extrication.

Grant manning the power unit.

The coroner. He was actually the head Medical Examiner for the county. He happened to be the closest coroner to our call.

The Suburban was facing the other direction when struck. I'm not sure which lane he was in or if he was on the center divider. It took a lot of force to do this.

This is where the victim lay. That is the metal frame to the front bench seat there.

Mop up.

This is the where the brush was involved. Luckily it wasn't windy that day.

This boulder was under the Suburban. It was hit hard enough to crack it straight down the middle.

Eric later would do his Burn Center rotation for his paramedic class and was able to follow up on both patients. The driver of the Van had been discharged the day before Eric was there. The other patient was still heavily sedated but was recovering well. He still has several surgeries to go through but he will live.


Anonymous said...

such a crazy story... i like to think i could do what you guys do but after hearing stories like this about having to recover a body, im not so sure... pretty sure id have nightmares

side note: the boulder probably cracked from the heat of the fire. where i live we have rocky beaches and after a good bonfire a lot of them are split like that.

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

I'm sure some of us have nightmares. I just don't remember any dreams, good or bad.

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