Northwest Fire District crews were called to Interstate 10 at the Ruthrauff overpass just after 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, after a passer-by noticed a vehicle off the roadway and damage to some of the guardrail in the area.
The first engine arrived within four minutes and found that the vehicle had rolled over. The vehicle was a Pontiac minivan that had sustained heavy damage. Within the minivan, a 71 year-old male driver was trapped.
Based on the amount of damage, the severity of the entrapment and the position of the vehicle, a special call was made to the Northwest Fire’s Technical Rescue Squad, which brought a crew of specially-trained firefighters with additional extrication an d stabilization equipment. The vehicle had come to rest on its side, and was resting along the bank of the overpass. The initial crew deemed the vehicle unstable and first had to use tow straps and a DPS vehicle to tie off the van to prevent it from sliding down the hill of the overpass. Once the vehicle was secure, Northwest Fire paramedics entered the minivan and began treating the driver for his injuries.
The Technical Rescue team arrived and used specialized stabilization equipment to brace the minivan, and then assisted the Engine Company with removing the windshield frame and cutting the roof of the minivan off to free the patient. Crews also had to use the Jaws of Life to free the victims’ legs which were pinned under the dashboard and gas pedal. It took crews 49 minutes from the time units were dispatched to the call until the patient was freed from the wreckage.
The patient was transported by ground ambulance to the University of Arizona Medical Centers main campus Trauma Unit in serious but stable condition. The driver was traveling from Phoenix to his home in Sierra Vista. The driver was wearing a seatbelt and this is credited with preventing critical, if not fatal injuries in such a significant crash.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) was on the scene to conduct an investigation into the cause of the accident. The minivan was the only vehicle involved, and the driver was the only occupant of the vehicle.
Northwest Fire would like to remind everyone to ALWAYS wear a seatbelt and to be well rested if you are driving for any length of time, especially on freeways.