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NOVEMBER 18, 2005


Route 1 Southbound, South of I-295,
Lawrence Township

Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers were among the dozens of emergency personnel who responded to a major six-vehicle traffic accident that resulted in the tragic death of a young man during the afternoon of Friday, November 18, 2005.

The deadly accident occurred at about 2:35 p.m. on the southbound side of Route 1, between the exit ramp from Interstate 295 and the Delaware & Raritan Canal pedestrian bridge that crosses over Route 1. All six vehicles involved in the collision were traveling southbound.
According to police, the tragedy began when a tractor-trailer filled with trash struck the rear end of a southbound Chevy Cavalier being driven by a 20-year-old man.

The tractor-trailer allegedly pushed the Chevy Cavalier into a stake-body truck which, in turn, hit the rear of a flatbed deliver truck with a crane on it, police said. The flatbed delivery truck then hit a Ford Taurus, which then rammed the rear of a Kia Sophia, according to police.

The heavily-damaged Chevy Cavalier, with its 20-year-old driver critically injured and trapped inside, came to rest by itself near the rear of the tractor trailer.

The stake-body truck came to rest pinned between the front of the tractor-trailer and the rear of the flatbed delivery truck. The stake-body truckís driver, a 25-year-old man, was heavily trapped in the wreckage.

The Kia Sophia, meanwhile, came to rest pinned between the front of the flatbed delivery truck and concrete median that separates Route 1ís southbound side from the northbound side. Trapped inside the Kia Sophia was its driver, a 45-year-old woman. The Ford Taurus, meanwhile, came to rest by itself, its rear only moderately damaged.

One of the tractor-trailerís saddle fuel tanks was ruptured during the accident and diesel fuel was spilled all over the roadway.

It was 2:38 p.m. when the Mercer County Central Communications Center dispatched all three Lawrence Township fire companies Ė Lawrenceville (Station 23), Lawrence Road (Station 22) and Slackwood (Station 21) Ė to Route 1 for a ďmulti-vehicle accident with unknown entrapment.Ē

Lawrence Township Police Detective Chris Longo (a Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteer) was the first police officer to reach the scene. He reported that he had a major accident with numerous people injured and trapped.

Rescue 23 responded at 2:39 p.m., followed by Rescue 22 at 2:40 p.m. and Rescue 21 at 2:41 p.m.

Rescue 22 was commanded by Assistant Chief Chris Pangaldi, driven by Paid Driver Robert Santello, and crewed by Capt. Shaun Dlabik, Capt. Michael Ratcliffe, Ff. Evan Kutzin, and Ff. Brian Laue.

Lawrenceville Capt. Butch Bentley arrived on scene at 2:41 p.m. and advised responding units that he had three people trapped in three separate vehicles with a large diesel fuel spill.

While enroute with Rescue 23, Lawrenceville Chief Dave Burns radioed Rescue 22 and asked that one member of Rescue 22ís crew don SCBA and deploy a charged 1.75-inch hoseline upon arrival. Ratcliffe volunteered to assume those duties.

Rescue 23 and Rescue 22 both arrived on location at 2:44 p.m., followed by Rescue 21 a short time later. (Lawrence Road Deputy Chief John Fleming also arrived on scene in Car 22-1, while Chief Wayne Hannon arrived later in Car 22.)

Rescue 22ís crew was assigned by Burns the job of extricating the 20-year-old man from the wreckage of the Chevy Cavalier. Rescue 21ís crew was ordered to work on freeing the 45-year-old woman who was trapped in the wrecked Kia Sophia, while Rescue 23ís crew was to work on extricating the 25-year-old man from the stake-body truck.

While Ratcliffe positioned the hoseline to protect all three extrication efforts, Rescue 22ís crew quickly deployed their Holmatro tools and went to work on the Chevy Cavalier.

With amazing speed, Rescue 22ís crew cut off the Chevyís driverís door, cut all posts, and then removed the entire roof to allow EMS personnel access to the critically injured man.

The 20-year-old man was freed from the wreckage by 2:54 p.m. Ė just 10 minutes after Rescue 22ís arrival on scene.

The man was immediately rushed to the trauma center at Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton by a West Windsor ambulance (with Kutzin, a trained EMT, aboard to help with patient care). Sadly, the man was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital.

After extricating the Chevyís driver, Rescue 22ís crew was ordered by Burns to assist Rescue 23ís crew with extricating the 25-year-old man from the stake-body truckís wreckage.

Burns placed Fleming in command of that extrication, and asked Pangaldi to assume the job of supervising Rescue 21ís extrication efforts on the Kia Sophia.

Rescue 21ís crew soon cut away the entire roof of the Kia and had the 45-year-old woman extricated from that wreck by 3:06 p.m. The woman was then rushed to the trauma center by ambulance.

Pangaldi and Rescue 21ís crew then moved over to assist with extrication efforts on the stake-body truck, where the 25-year-old manís legs and lower body were still heavily pinned.

At 2:46 p.m., because he was faced with so many people trapped, Burns ordered Mercer County Central to dispatch an extra rescue company to the scene. Rescue 44 from West Windsor Townshipís Princeton Junction Fire Co. was dispatched at 2:47 p.m. Rescue 44 responded at 2:53 p.m. and, after fighting its way through the heavy traffic caused by the accident, arrived on scene at 3:05 p.m. to supply extra manpower.

To deal with the diesel fuel spilled from the tractor-trailerís ruptured saddle tank, Burns at 2:50 p.m. special-called the Trenton Fire Departmentís Hazardous Materials Task Force.

Trenton firefighters, under the command of Battalion Chief Greg Gore, responded with Rescue 1, HazMat 1, Ladder 1 and Engine 1. They arrived on scene about 3 p.m. (accessing the scene by going north in the southbound lanes of Route 1 from Franklin Corner Road).
Trenton firefighters first plugged the hole in the tractor-trailerís saddle tank and used pads and absorbent material to control the spill. They then joined extrication efforts at the stake-body truck.

At 3:04 p.m., an additional rescue company (Rescue 12 from Hamilton Townshipís Mercerville Fire Co.) and an additional engine company (Engine 51 from Pennington Borough) were dispatched and ordered to stage in the area of Franklin Corner Road in case they became needed.

After cutting away from front and rear passengerís side doors and the entire roof of the stake-body truck, firefighters used spreaders and rams as best they could to lift the dashboard and free the trapped manís legs. Ultimately, firefighters, working from the rear of the flatbed delivery truck, wrapped a chain around the steering wheel and, by closing a Holmatro spreader, pulled the steering wheel up just enough to the free the manís trapped legs.

The 25-year-old man, with both femurs fractured and other injuries to his lower body, was finally extricated from the wreckage by 3:30 p.m. Fleming and Laue helped EMS personnel load the man into a waiting ambulance and he was then rushed to the trauma center.

The drivers of the tractor-trailer and the other vehicles, as well as several passengers from those vehicles, were also taken by ambulance to area hospitals for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, according to police.

Among the EMS units on scene were ambulances from Lawrence, West Windsor, Hamilton and Princeton, and Capital Health System paramedics.

At about 4 p.m., once all extrications were completed, all patients were transported and all hazards were mitigated, all units were recalled with the exception of Rescue 23 and Rescue 22. Rescue 23 and Rescue 22, meanwhile, stayed on location until 7:50 p.m. to assist police and provide lighting for investigators. (Rescue 22 was finally back in quarters by 7:57 p.m.)

The accident forced police to keep the entire southbound side of Route 1 between I-295 and Franklin Corner Road, as well as one northbound lane in that area, closed from 2:30 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m., resulting in traffic backups for several miles in both directions.

The officers and members of Lawrence Road Fire Co. wish to express our condolences to the family of the young man who was killed in this accident.

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