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JUNE 27, 2005


Princeton Pike and Lawrence Road,
Lawrence Township

During the afternoon of Monday, June 27, 2005, volunteer firefighters from Lawrence Road Fire Co. helped extricate two people who were trapped in the wreckage of their car after it became involved in a four-vehicle collision. They then spent four hours standing by at the scene as police conducted their investigation.

The accident occurred shortly before 3:55 p.m. at Harneys Corner, which is the intersection of Princeton Pike and Lawrence Road (Route 206).

According to police, the multi-vehicle crash was caused by a 55-year-old Trenton man who was driving a Mercedes Benz southbound on Princeton Pike.

Police allege that the man's vehicle failed to stop as it approached the intersection and slammed into the rear of a southbound Volkswagen occupied by a 55-year-old Ewing Township man and his 52-year-old wife.

The force of the impact propelled the Volkswagen forward so that it struck the rear of a southbound Jeep Cherokee, police said. As a result, the Volkswagen sustained extensive damage to both its front and rear, trapping both the driver and his wife in the wreckage.

The Mercedes, meanwhile, jumped the grass median, toppled a street sign post and struck a Ford Explorer traveling on Lawrence Road, according to police.

Lawrence Township police and a Lawrence First Aid Squad ambulance were initially dispatched to the accident.

Lawrence Road Capt. Shaun Dlabik, who was nearby at the time, stopped at the scene to investigate and discovered that there were two people trapped. He immediately radioed Mercer County Central Communications Center and requested that a full rescue assignment be dispatched.

At 3:57 p.m. Box 22-10 was transmitted and Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched, along with Rescue 21 from Slackwood Fire Co. and Rescue 23 from Lawrenceville Fire Co.

A mutual aid ambulance from Trenton was also dispatched, along with paramedics from Capital Health System.

Rescue 23 signed on radio at 3:58 p.m., followed by Chief Wayne Hannon in Car 22 at 3:59 p.m. Rescue 22 and Rescue 21 both responded at 4 p.m.

Rescue 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Ratcliffe, driven by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr., and crewed by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr., Ff. Evan Kutzin, Ff. Ryan Dlabik, and Ff. Charles Commini Jr.

Hannon, Rescue 22 and Rescue 21 all arrived at 4:01 p.m., followed by Rescue 23 at 4:02 p.m.

With Hannon as the incident commander, the crews from Rescue 21 and Rescue 22 went in service to extricate the two victims trapped in the Volkswagen.

After first cribbing the vehicle, Rescue 22's crew used their Holmatro tools to pop open the jammed driver's door, while Rescue 21's crew used their Hurst tools to open the jammed passenger's side door.

Rescue 23's crew, meanwhile, stood by with a charged 1.75-inch hoseline from Rescue 22 and a second charged 1.75-inch hoseline from Rescue 23. They also helped EMS personnel and Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr. check the drivers of the other vehicles.

The driver of the Jeep Cherokee (a 20-year-old Trenton woman) was only slightly hurt and declined medical assistance, while the driver of the Ford Explorer (a 51-year-old woman from Penndel, Pa.) was not hurt.

The driver of the Mercedes Benz was injured, however, and appeared to be suffering from an altered mental status, according to police. As a result, paramedics designated him as a priority patient over the Volkswagen's occupants (whose injuries, while serious, did not appear life-threatening).

The Mercedes' driver was thus rushed by ambulance to the trauma unit at Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton. He injuries later reportedly proved to be not as serious as first feared and he was admitted to the hospital for observation.

The husband and wife from the Mercedes were also rushed by ambulance to Fuld hospital, where their head and abdominal injuries were treated.

At 4:30 p.m. Rescue 23 was released from the scene by Hannon.

Rescue 21 and Rescue 22 then remained on location while township police began their investigation with the assistance of an investigator from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

Police designated the intersection as a crime scene and stretched yellow crime scene tape across both Lawrence Road and Princeton Pike to cordon off the wrecked vehicles. Firefighters remained outside the police tape while the investigation took place.

Meanwhile, traffic was detoured away from the area, creating backups at the Brunswick Circle and on Brunswick Pike.

At 5:59 p.m. Rescue 21 left the scene to respond to a fire alarm activation on Glenn Avenue.

Rescue 22 remained on location, albeit with a slightly revised crew. Ratcliffe and Kutzin (who had to leave for work) were replaced by Capt. Michael Byrd and Ff. Steve Hodgdon.

After the police investigation was completed, Rescue 22's crew stood by while the wrecked vehicles were removed by tow trucks and sand was spread over the intersection to soak up spilled oil, ant-freeze and other fluids.

Rescue 22 finally cleared the scene at 7:55 p.m. and was back in quarters at 7:57 p.m. The intersection was reopened to traffic about 8:05 p.m.

Authorities later said the Mercedes' driver was charged with causing a collision with serious bodily injury while having a suspended license and with two assault by auto offenses, as well as several motor vehicle complaints.

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