The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 14, 2003


Teamwork saves two 16-year-olds trapped in car rollover

Two 16-year-old Westford girls were rescued from what Carlisle Fire Chief David Flannery called "a very precarious" situation last Friday night at about 7:30 p.m. The girls were driving eastbound on Westford Road and failed to negotiate the turn at Curve Street. Their vehicle went off the road and rolled over with the girls pinned inside and under it.

Flannery said the driver's head had gone through a window. The window then had to be cut out. The passenger had her left foot wedged outside the car door. It took about 40 minutes to safely extricate the girl whose head was stuck. "We used everything we had on the new truck," Flannery said. This included a lighting tool (it was dark at 7:30 p.m.), a blocking mechanism to stabilize the vehicle, a slowly inflated airbag to go under the car and raise it gently, a bottle of compressed air to fill the airbag, and hydraulic cutters and a reciprocating saw to cut the window out and free the girl's head. One of the medics at the scene said "When time is of the essence, having the right equipment is the most valuable" help.

Both passengers were alert and conscious and had no pain during their ordeal, according to Flannery, and astonishingly sustained only minor injuries. One was taken to Lahey Clinic in an ambulance from Westford and the other was transported by Carlisle ambulance to Emerson Hospital. Both were released to their parents later that evening.

The operator of the vehicle, whose name is being withheld because she is a juvenile, was driving with a junior-operating license obtained only nine days before the accident. Carlisle Police Chief David Galvin said that under junior license regulations it is illegal to have a passenger in the car. Galvin said the accident was caused by speeding. An eyewitness said the vehicle was going at 60-65 miles an hour, although another report estimated a 40-45-miles-per-hour speed. Both estimates have the vehicle operating well over the 30-miles-per-hour speed limit for eastbound traffic. The operator is charged with speeding, seatbelt violation, and violating the terms of a junior operating license. When asked, Galvin said neither drugs nor alcohol were involved in the accident. He said it would be about six weeks before the case came to court. According to The Lowell Sun, the girls were enroute to a football game in Bedford.

Metro media coverage

The dramatic rescue was reported on both Channel 5 and Channel 7 evening news, with some emphasis on the difficulty of the rescue and the quality of Carlisle's fire crew teamwork. Flannery said training is "something we have stressed it worked like clockwork ... it makes a difference when you use these tools on real cases."

Carlisle's Fire Department deserves credit where much credit is due. Bob Trainor and Dave Ziehler were responsible for patient care, Engine 4 ladder was manned by Bryan Sorrows, George Middleton, Dave Duren and Rob West. Frank Sargent worked at first with Trainor and Ziehler, stabilizing the patients, and then was shifted to work with two Westford EMTs to free the entrapped girls. Sargent said "those Westford guys are aces." Kevin Brown and John Bakewell were also at the scene, and Fire Chief Flannery coordinated and directed the response team effort. Sargent said that part of the credit for their success should also go to Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan White, (who was not on call that night,) because White was responsible for the thorough training that enabled them all to be successful in "the most difficult extrication I have ever seen."

Flannery said the swift response of Emerson's ALS team was a factor in the success of the rescue. The Carlisle Fire Department was at Lowell Street and the ski barn trying to assess the condition of a woman slumped over her steering wheel when the Curve Street call came in. The Emerson paramedics were diverted from Lowell Street and went directly to the Curve Street accident where they were first responders at the scene. They had already evaluated the situation when the Carlisle crew arrived from Lowell Street so that Carlisle could get under way immediately with what Flannery described as "a difficult and tedious extrication."

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito