Despite treacherous conditions along Highway 3 Tuesday night, Hope rescuers were able to quickly get a man pinned in an overturned semi truck out and into a waiting ambulance.
It was a quick rescue said Noelle Hartt, media liaison officer with Hope Volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) who received the call around 9 p.m. Dec. 11. It took an hour and a half to remove the man safely from the semi truck which had rolled off the highway five kilometres past Manning Park before being stopped by trees and landing on its side.
The conditions for rescuers were treacherous, with a whiteout and blizzard-like conditions as they made their way to the scene. The roads were icy, with a ‘terrible’ amount of snow coming down. Even with a strong four-wheel-drive rescue truck built for these conditions, Hartt said it was slow going.
“We set up on scene and did our normal practice with the extrication tools and essentially had to free his leg that was trapped within the dash in the far wall of his semi,” Hartt said. “He was hanging upside down in his seat before we arrived so the passerby and the RCMP, and I think some employees from Manning Park, were able to sort of sling him with some webbing and relieve that pressure so he wasn’t hanging upside down in excruciating pain.”
Rescuers used pumps, generators and their hydraulic equipment, as well as one rescuer designated to ensure the man was kept safe during the rescue.
“As you’re pulling those vehicles apart or cutting, other pieces start to crinkle in and push in so it’s like a puzzle every time. So you pull one way, what is that affecting on the other side? And how is that impacting, possibly, the patient?,” Hartt said.
When the man was removed from the vehicle, he appeared to go into shock. The most significant injury Hartt could see was his leg but he was speaking at the point when he was moved into the ambulance.
Rescuers had help from the RCMP, BC Ambulance and a motorist who were all on scene when they arrived.
A young man from Steveston was the first person to arrive on the scene and was involved in the rescue as well. Hartt joked that Hope SAR tried to recruit the man, known by his first name Jeremy, as he had done such a terrific job during the rescue. “He was remarkable, he was almost like one of us,” she said.
The fact that the rescue ended well was important for the team as a very complex rescue in March 2017 of truck driver Pat Gaudet, who later succumbed to his injuries, was on their minds.
“That’s what was running through the team’s head, you know, this was just reminiscent (of that rescue). Obviously, he wasn’t lost but still another truck driver that was pinned,” Hartt said, adding the sheer size and load of a semi-truck makes it much more of a difficult rescue operation than a regular vehicle.
“So it was a really good, positive feeling and it was good for those members that did attend the other accident that was 14 to 16 hours of cutting and trying to get the other fellow out. To have it done in an hour and a half.”
Hartt cautioned drivers to be very aware of driving conditions and have a survival kit on hand, especially this time of year.
Preparation becomes even more important along places without cell service, like Highway 3.
“If you go down an embankment in the dark and no one is around to see that happen, that’s the reality of it up on Highway 3,” Hartt cautioned.
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