Rescue crews extricate mechanic after hydraulic lift retracts

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 3:00pm

THOMASTON — One person was hospitalized after becoming trapped under an auto dealership vehicle lift in Thomaston, Friday morning, Feb. 21.

Following an approximate 7:05 a.m. call to 911, firefighters and emergency medical crews from Thomaston and Rockland worked to raise a portion of metal after the hydraulic lift retracted, trapping the person.

That person had been standing underneath, working on the undercarriage of a vehicle, and reached over to do some brake work, according to Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock. In the process of reaching, the person bumped a lever that lowers a section of the lift. His forearm then got caught in between two pieces of metal.

“He was conscious and alert the whole time, standing up the whole time, and was able to move his fingers,” said Whytock. “He was doing well for being entrapped.”

In all, about 13 responders went to the scene and helped with the extrication: 8 Rockland Fire and EMS, 2 Thomaston firefighters, and three Thomaston Ambulance personnel. Though all played a part in the recovery, one aspect that paved the way for better response efficiency was the immediate response by an off-duty Rockland firefighter.

That firefighter happened to be on his way home from a  24-hour shift, and was pumping gas across the street in the 1-degree morning temperature when he heard the call. He became the first to arrive, and because of his training, knew that Rockland had the equipment needed for the situation at hand. 

“It was good,” said Whytock. “He was able to give us an idea of what we were actually dealing with – to get resources there quicker.”

In this case, that resource was an airbag system that is not often used, though it resides in Rockland’s Squad truck along with the Jaws of Life and other support equipment. Rockport FD also has airbags, and a set was used last August when a vehicle traveling Route 90 rolled over with three teenagers inside

Though the inflatable devices are called airbags, they’re actually very thick mats of varying sizes used alongside cribbing that can be put underneath so if the mat doesn’t hold the offending structure, the cribbing can take on that burden, according to Whytock. 

The mats take about two to three minutes to set up, and can be fully inflated in ten seconds. The bigger bags can hold approximately 10 tons, according to Whytock.

In this case, two mats were stacked on top of each other on one side of the lift, and one mat was on the opposite side. 

Within about half an hour, the person had been extricated.

The airbag system belongs to Rockland, yet because Rockland and Thomaston work closely together anyway, and because of continuous joint training sessions, Thomaston firefighters are also equipped to handle the device. 

“[This incident] sounded more traumatic than it actually was,” said Whytock. “Everything was nice and calm. We were able to get everything off of him really quickly.”

 

Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com