Over 200 firefighters and EMS volunteers from Northampton and Lehigh Counties gathered at Northampton Area High School to attend attend a valuable training that may help save the lives of their friends, family, and neighbors.
ESI, the equipment provider for the Northampton Fire Department, sponsored the December 9 event which focused on extracting trapped drivers from vehicles. The training was based on a 2014 Pennsylvania Turnpike accident, in which a driver needed to have his leg amputated in order to be freed from his vehicle.
“It is a specific topic that, thank God, does not happen often,” said Ray Henry of ESI.
Dr. David Jaslow, an EMS physician, was the responding physician at the scene in 2014. Since then, he has presented his experience at national conferences. He was proud to bring his story to local first responders.
Such a complicated accident, he said, is once-in-a-career. No one ever has enough experience.
“[This training] will help them figure out what they would do if something like that would happen here [and] address it proactively,” he added.
Alongside Jaslow, Chief Don Lynch of Harleysville Area EMS also helped give the presentation. He was a first responder at the 2014 scene.
The accident was the result of a box truck driver falling asleep at the wheel. He crashed into the guardrail of a bridge near the Turnpike’s Lansdale exit. The truck flipped on its side, trapping the driver. Jaslow said first responders only have three hours to successfully extract a driver from a vehicle before the situation turns fatal.
“In a prolonged incident, you have weather, traffic, lighting, and resource issues,” said Jaslow. “A lot of things you do not have to think about 99 percent of the time. We are working against the clock.”
“It is a combination of decision making and organization,” he added. “If something fails…which it will…it is okay, because you anticipated it.”
With the driver’s leg trapped and the box truck hanging dangerously over the edge of the Turnpike’s bridge, first responders had no choice but to amputate his left leg.
Lynch added that it took all of the teams working together for the driver to be safely extracted.
“It was the group of all these resources working together that made this successful,” he said. “From point A, it was very unique and challenging for everybody.”
All of the first responders in attendance listened intently to the presentation, knowing its lessons could be the difference between life or death.
The turnout made Jaslow optimistic.
“It is great to see first responders who want continued education.”