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Person trapped in truck overturned across the median barrier

Category: National Firefighting Team of the Year

Fire department: Freiwillige Feuerwehren Falkensee & Dallgow-Döberitz (Brandenburg)

Operation: Truck accident with personal rescue

On July 3, 2017 at 12:37 pm, the northwest control centre of Potsdam’s professional FD notified the Dallgow-Döberitz Volunteer Fire Department about a traffic accident with an overturned truck on the four-lane Road B5 near the Havelpark shopping centre. No other details were clear at the time of the alarm, not even the direction of travel. Deputy municipal leader and head of operations Ronny Gerhard organised the incoming crew members, who first left with the HTLF and a command vehicle (ELW1).

In accordance with the AAO, such alarms require help to be requested from the neighbouring Falkensee Professional FD, which then has the overall responsibility. On the way to the operation, the regional command centre radioed to the head of operations that the driver was trapped in his truck. The head of operations immediately notified the HLF 20 of the Falkensee FD.

When the command vehicle arrived, the head of operations was met with a picture of horror. The driver of the vehicle, a tipper trailer loaded with 20 t of dirt, had lost control of the vehicle due to a puncture in the front left tyre and rolled over the median barrier together with his load. The vehicle tandem had come to rest upside down, exactly on the median. Due to its enormous weight, the trailer had pinned the cab onto the roadway, hence the badly trapped driver. The ambulance and emergency doctor, together with four crew members, were already trying to provide the driver with first aid. 

During the operation head’s evaluation of the situation, additional smoke was coming from the truck. The trapped driver responded to multiple enquiries that he had been alone in the vehicle. The entire load was spread over several hundred metres. Even before the Falkensee forces arrived, the door was removed to create access for the rescuers. Despite all fears, the driver was conscious enough to speak; his words “Please don’t let me die!” further increased the already great psychological stress on the rescuers. With the arrival of the HLF20 and ambulance from Falkensee, efforts were immediately begun to prop up the truck with all means possible. The RW and HLF rescue set were also ordered to the operation site to continue the rescue with all available forces.

The fire chief of the Falkensee FD, Daniel Brose, who had arrived in the meantime, assisted the head of operations. Hundreds of onlookers, attracted from the nearby shopping centre, made it necessary to call for additional members of the Falkensee and Wustermark FDs and task them with ensuring fire protection, supporting the rescue operations and blocking off the perimeter.

During the work, additional members of the Dallgow-Döberitz FD, including Oliver Frandrup-Kuhr, were also called to the site and came with the LF 20, LF 10 and VGW. To treat the patient after his removal from the cab as rapidly as possible, a rescue helicopter from Perleberg was requested.

Due to the failure of all attempts to free the driver, who was trapped upside down in his wrecked truck, a new plan had to be devised. The trailer was simply too heavy to pull apart from the cab; not even several adjacent rescue rams were able to lift the truck cab. The rescuers even began preparing themselves mentally to amputate the driver’s trapped leg. Only a crane would make it possible to avert this. Because no cranes were available nearby, the head of operations requested support from the technical service of the Berlin FD in Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf, circa 18 km away. 

The Berlin FD ordered a crew of its TD1 to go to the site with a crane and various other equipment. When the vehicles from Berlin arrived, they immediately set up the crane and started trying to lift the truck. But only a second attempt with the crane succeeded in raising the truck by a few centimetres. The rescue rams simultaneously pushed, and the driver could finally be freed.

After around two hours, the driver, who had been responsive the entire time even though his vital signs had often been problematic, could be treated by the emergency service providers and finally brought to the clinic in Berlin Marzahn.

Due to the long period the driver had been upside down in the cab, he in no way resembled the photo on his ID; the cab was thus searched for a second person, which was not the case.

Altogether, 92 crew members from fire departments and emergency medical services took part in this exhausting operation to rescue the driver alive, under extremely high mental and physical stress.