2 hurt when truck rams through wall of Helper home
"When you're working rescue, you'll always run into unique situations," Helper Fire Chief Mike Zamantakis told his city council Thursday night. Apologizing for appearing unshaven - "It's been a long day..." - he and Police Chief Trent Anderson reported how they and their teams had begun the day at 4 a.m.
Assistant Fire Chief Richard Columbo added more details in an interview Monday.
A pickup truck heading north on Main Street veered off the road at the intersection of Janet Street, hit the curb, went airborne, and smashed through the bedroom wall of a house on the corner. Two people were in that room. One of them, 24-year-old Megan Clark, was pinned on the floor under the front end of the truck with multiple fractures. "It was worse because both tires were flat," Zamantakis said.
The other occupant, 21-year-old Ryan Smith, somehow managed to escape serious injury. When police and the fire department's Rescue 3 scrambled to the scene, they found Smith sitting dazed on the lawn behind the truck.
"I have no idea how he got out of there," Columbo said.
But the crew could do nothing to get Clark out.
That was because the rescuers also smelled the unmistakable odor of natural gas. The runaway truck had snapped a gas pipe at the meter. Chief Anderson said Clark was pinned just 10 feet from the leak.
People from blocks away could smell it, too. "We were dealing with a bomb there," Zamantakis said. A reading on a gas detector showed dangerous concentrations of gas. One spark would have touched off an explosion. Police cordoned off the streets and evacuated six nearby homes.
Rescue 3 put in an emergency call to Questar gas to shut off the flow. There was no shutoff valve because the meter was gone and digging up the street was not an option in this emergency. A Questar worker crawled under the truck and pounded in a spark-free wooden plug.
When the gas was shut off, rescuers opened doors and broke windows, then set up a fan to pressurize the house and force the gas out.
As the gas dropped to near-zero, the next phase of the complicated rescue began. According to Columbo, the front end of the truck and the furniture it rammed were blocking the door to the bedroom.Workers had to tear an opening in the interior wall to reach the woman.
With the wall gone, George Zamantakis of Rescue 3 entered the room and reached Clark. "All he could see was her hand sticking out from under the truck, but she said, 'I'm alive. I'm alive,'" Columbo said.
George Zamantakis gave her a quick examination and determined the woman could be fitted with a neck brace to prevent further injury. He also kept talking with her to calm her down. She was also given oxygen.
Getting a sheepherder's jack and floor jack in place to lift the truck was another complication. "It's one thing to talk about the mess in there, it was another thing to see it," Chief Zamantakis said.Nevertheless, the rescuers deployed the jacks and managed to lift the truck high enough to gently extricate the trapped woman. "They put her on a backboard and brought her out through the wall," Columbo said. She and Smith were then transported by ambulance to Castleview Hospital.
The three occupants of the vehicle were able to get out after the crash.
Drugs and alcohol were not suspected in the crash. However, sleep may have been an issue, according to Anderson.