Grinding head-on crash closes I-205 for half a day

See why we say it’s amazing that the victim – although very seriously inured – survived this crash, the reason for which remains a mystery …

Because of this wreck, traffic is backed up on I-205 from south to Interstate 5, and from the north back into Washington State.

Story and some photos by David F. Ashton
Traffic came to a standstill on Interstate 205 on the morning of May 5, due to an unusual head-on collision.

At 9:24 am, off-duty Portland Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Bernard, a 15-year veteran of Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R), was driving in the southbound lanes of Interstate 205 just south of the Foster Road on-ramp, reported PF&R spokesman Paul Corah.

Using multiple sets of powerful Holmatro Rescue Tools, firefighters work on and around the vehicle to reach the trapped victim. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“A small SUV, two cars ahead of him – without braking – suddenly veered to the left, crossed the center median, and struck a semi-truck in the northbound lanes. A third vehicle was also involved in the collision, and rolled over onto its top,” Corah related.

Traffic slowing and stopping to avoid the wreckage strewn about the highway delayed emergency responders as they drove their rigs on the shoulders and medians to reach the wreckage.

Even power cutting and prying tools aren’t enough; firefighter have to rip and tear pieces from the mangled vehicle to reach the victim inside. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Bernard, who is also a 24-year veteran of the 304th Rescue Squadron based out of Portland, immediately pulled over. “He attended to a driver who was severely pinned between the driver’s seat and the dashboard,” Corah told us. Bernard was aided by an off-duty nurse who stopped to render needed first aid to the driver of the SUV.

Portland Fire & Rescue engines and trucks – loaded with crew and gear – park their rigs on the freeway, and work to save the trapped wreck victim.

“Because the driver was so severely pinned in the vehicle, there was little we could do for him until Portland Fire arrived at the scene,” said Bernard.  “Then I noticed that the SUV had smoke coming from the engine and I was concerned that it might catch fire.”
Corah said that Bernard flagged down a local cement truck driver. “The cement truck carried a water supply, and a hose that Bernard used to extinguish any potential fire that might break out in the SUV’s engine compartment.”

Five minutes after the crash was reported, Portland Fire, assisted by Clackamas County Fire, arrived on-scene.

Crews used at least three sets of Holmatro Rescue Tools – including hydraulic rams, and hydraulic cutters – to cut the vehicle off of, and pull it away from, the trapped victim.

Using the prying hydraulic jaws, firefighters continue to remove pieces of the smashed SUV from around the victim. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Even though the crews are very skilled using the highly-portable and powerful Holmatro Rescue Tools, it nonetheless took firefighters 23 minutes to free the victim. “This was a complicated and truly technically-challenging extrication,” Corah explained to us.
Portland Police are investigating the accident, and have not yet declared a cause for this tragic smashup – which sent one patient to the hospital with traumatic, life-threatening injuries.

“The driver of the third car, that flipped onto its top, was able to self-extricate and was not injured,” said Corah. “The driver of the semi-truck was not injured.”

Firefighters start to pick up their tools and gear after the victim was successfully extricated from this smashed-beyond-belief vehicle. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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