One person was killed and two others were seriously injured after a work van crashed into the rear of a full-sized tractor-trailer on U.S. 170 near the intersection of Copeland Drive on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 16.
Around 7:20 a.m., units with the City of Beaufort-Town of Port Royal Fire Department and the Burton Fire District were dispatched to a report of a motor vehicle accident with entrapment and one of the vehicles on fire.
The first arriving unit, Battalion 81, found a full-sized passenger van had collided with the rear of a tractor-trailer in the east bound lane of U.S. 170. The van was being used as a work van with a ladder rack on top and was full of work tools and equipment.
The engine compartment and front passenger area of the van was lodged under the rear of the tractor-trailer. The engine was on fire and the fire was being fed by flammable liquids in the engine, endangering the lives of the three occupants of the van, who were entrapped.
Battalion Chief Tony Carneavale of the Burton Fire District quickly deployed a dry chemical fire extinguisher from his fire unit, suppressed the fire, and “undoubtedly gave the occupants of the van the best chance for survival,” according to a City of Beaufort release.
This type of call is assigned the two closest fire engines and a Battalion Chief, law enforcement, and a Beaufort County EMS ambulance as a standard practice, Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf said. The initial resources needed to be reinforced and additional crews from the City of Beaufort-Town of Port Royal Fire Department, the Burton Fire District, and the Marine Corps Air Station Fire Department, Beaufort County EMS, City of Beaufort Police Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, the South Carolina Department of Transportation, and two Air Ambulance helicopters were requested and responded along with off-duty staff officers from both the Beaufort-Port Royal and Burton fire departments.
Firefighters set forth with the extrication operation. Upon arrival of emergency crews, one of the three occupants of the van was determined to be deceased and the other two occupants were severely injured and needed to be extricated from the wreck. Firefighters worked diligently stabilizing the vehicles involved, removed tools and equipment from the van that had moved forward in the van and covered the victims, and cut the van away from the entrapped victims.
While firefighters worked to complete the extrication, medical personnel from Beaufort County EMS and the arriving air ambulances provided medical care to the two patients.
“This is a well-rehearsed and orchestrated scenario” said City of Beaufort-Town of Port Royal Battalion Chief Larry Deloach. “We had a major extrication that had to occur at the same time potentially life-saving medical treatment needed to occur. The air crews and ground paramedics worked flawlessly, side by side with the firefighters who were cutting and spreading on the car, to give these two patients the best chance possible at survival.”
Within approximately one hour of emergency crew’s arrival, both severely injured patients were extricated from the van and moved to waiting air ambulances for transport to appropriate trauma hospitals. Both patients had significant, life threatening, injuries.
In all, nine pieces of fire department apparatus from three different departments, three ground ambulances, two air ambulance helicopters, three fire staff officer vehicles, and approximately 35 emergency workers from multiple agencies were on the scene.