Creston Fire Rescue personnel spent four and a half hours late Thursday and early Friday attempting to free a lone occupant in a tractor trailer rollover east of Creston on Highway 3. The westbound tractor-trailer crossed the eastbound lane, rolling completely upside down approximately two kilometers east of the Goat River Bridge, trapping the driver inside the cab.
“This was a very challenging type of extrication, and one that fortunately doesn’t happen very often,” said fire Chief Michael Moore. “The driver was in the only livable space within the cab, which was essentially flattened and buried partially into the ground. You could reach your hand in the window of the driver’s side door and touch what would be the floor of the cab. That is very hard to imagine, and even more difficult to believe that the driver was still inside and talking to us.”
The fire department received the call at approximately 9 p.m. March 26 for the semi-truck rollover.
Moore and Assistant Chief Jared Riel responded with the four firefighters on the rescue unit, and seeing that the rescue was a complex one, requested additional firefighters and apparatus, and closed the highway to provide a safe working area.
Firefighters methodically began removing small pieces of the truck, stabilizing the upside-down vehicle to ensure it didn’t move or twist.
The front portion of the cab was ripped away from the frame and curled back onto itself, creating “some uncertainty of what parts of the cab were holding the motor and frame up,” said Moore. “With the soft ground where the truck was created difficulty in how we could displace the cab back towards the frame.”
As firefighters worked, Moore learned that a large tow truck was in the vehicle lineup, which happened to be in the area from an accident the previous evening.
“Having that large tow truck from Scrap King Towing was the saving grace at the end of the day,” he said. “We used it at first to create a safe stabilization of the truck frame, which would also prevent the truck from pivoting on the trailer connection, and then, when we were nearly out of options to free his lower legs, we used the large boom to lift a portion of the front frame to give us the few inches we needed.
“It was a last resort using the tow truck to lift due to the risks to the occupant, but after nearly four hours we were moving into borrowed time, so we found the way to get it done and ensure that during the lifting the vehicle remained stable.”
At close to 1:20 a.m. March 27, firefighters finally moved the occupant from the twisted wreckage to the waiting BC Ambulance paramedics, a relief to Moore and the crew.
“There is no feeling like it,” he said. “I think when I could see his head and shoulders clear the opening, I turned and began clapping, for him and the crew. I knew he had a family and knew this was going to be the best news possible for them.”
Moore was deeply grateful for the operators from Scrap King Towing.
“We never want to use tow trucks to lift or pull at vehicles with patients and responders in the vehicle, as there are too many variables that can go wrong,” he said. “We got to a point where a man’s life needed us to take an unconventional risk. We talked to the tow truck operators, explained what we needed, and used some of their experience in vehicle recovery to formulate a plan that was as safe as possible for the occupant and firefighters. We couldn’t have done it without their professional expertise.”
The best part of the day, Moore said, was receiving a phone call from the driver to say thank you — he wasn’t sure if he said it at the time of the rescue.
“All I could say was, ‘No problem,’ even though I know that it was one of the more challenging rescues I have seen in my career.” Moore said with a smile. “It is dedicated men and women, such as our firefighters, who train relentlessly that make things like this happen when the options become very limited. … It was ten of my firefighters, two great two truck drivers and one determined truck driver that make this a great story to share.”
Creston RCMP will be investigating the cause of the accident.