Toledo Fire and Rescue deputy chief recounts rescuing people during deadly Ohio Turnpike pile-up

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 6:58 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Toledo Fire and Rescue personnel were called to the turnpike Friday to help assist other agencies with the response to the 46-car pile-up.

TFRD received a mutual aid call about two hours after the accident happened. Sandusky County needed resources from Toledo for an extrication. 12 firefighters then headed out in the white-out conditions determined to help however they could.

Bryce Blair, Deputy Chief of Operations for TFRD, says his crew got to the crash site around 3:30 in the afternoon.

“On the westbound lanes, there were lights of all the responding crews, and on the eastbound lanes, it was just wreckage as far as you can see. There were cars that were oriented eastbound, westbound, some were on top of each other, some were suspended in the air,” says Deputy Chief Blair.

TFRD was called there to help save some people in a completely crushed vehicle.

“There were still people trapped in a car that was underpinned by two semis,” says Deputy Chief Blair. “There were three people in the vehicle, two of which were alive and, unfortunately, one that was already deceased.”

The extrication process was tough, and there were safety concerns for the people in the car and the first responders trying to save them. To get access to the people injured, the rescuers had to crawl underneath and on top of wreckage.

“If you’re claustrophobic in a crushed car, it’s a little tough when you have almost no movement yourself,” says the deputy chief. “It’s somewhat similar to a cave rescue at that point in time, except you’re not sure whether the top of the cave is going to come in on you at any time.”

He says the extreme weather also made the rescue much more difficult.

“There’s concern from your footing, to the wind, to the frostbite, to the worst case scenario which is obviously those loads fail and come down and crush the car the rest of the way with responders all in it,” says Deputy Chief Blair.

The TFRD crew was able to safely get all three people out of their car. The two who were injured were taken to a local hospital.

“There is a saying that’s from the National Fire Academy: ‘We will take great risk to save lives.’ This is one of those where the margin of safety has to go down,” says the deputy chief. “There are people still to save.”

Deputy Chief Blair says that all first responders at the scene were heroes, and TFRD could not have successfully saved the people if crews from other agencies didn’t help.

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