"When you're working rescue, you'll always run into unique situations," Helper Fire Chief Mike Zamantakis told his city council Thursday. 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.
A pickup truck heading north on Main Street veered of the road at the intersection of Janet Street, hit the curb, went airborne, and smashed through the wall of a house on the corner. It was a bedroom wall. Two people were in there. One of them, 24-year-old Megan Clark, was pinned 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.
The police and the fire department's Rescue 3 scrambled to the scene. There they saw the mess the truck had made of the bedroom interior. "It's one thing to talk about it, it's something else to see it," Zamantakis said. Clark was conscious and able to tell them she was alive and badly hurt.
But the crew could do nothing to get her 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 ten 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 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. The Questar worker crawled under the truck and pounded in a spark-free wooden plug.
Rescuers opened door and broke windows, then brought in fans to pressurize the house and force the gas out.
As the gas dropped to near-zero, Rescue 3 deployed the jacks and managed to lift the truck high enough to gently extricate the trapped woman. 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.