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The brute force save: How we lifted a car off trapped man

Portland firefighters ditched the tools and used their muscles to lift a car off a man pinned underneath it in January

Editor's note: As part of our year-end coverage, we look back at some of 2012's biggest news stories and reconnect with some of those involved. In this article, Portland Fire & Rescue's Damon Simmons looks back at a call in January when firefighters had to use brute strength to lift up a 3,200-pound car and free a man pinned under it.. 

By Lieutenant Damon Simmons
Assistant PIO, Portland Fire & Rescue

At 6:39 am on January 5, firefighters from two Portland Fire & Rescue stations (Station 1 and Station 13) responded to reports of a man pinned beneath a vehicle at the intersection of NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, and NE Grand Avenue.

Incidents of this type are dispatched as "Pin-In" accidents; these incidents draw additional resources as entrapped victims often require technical extrication.

According to witnesses, the patient was first struck by one vehicle and was lying in the road when another vehicle, a PT cruiser, was unable to stop and struck the man — pinning him face down between the Cruiser and the road.

Several calls were received with each caller providing a different address, as is often the case when accidents occur between intersections. When crews first arrived at the address, nothing was located; with multiple calls received, the four responding apparatus began searching the area.

Squad 1, a Heavy Rescue, arrived on scene first and correctly identified the address as MLK at the Interstate 84 overpass. Truck 13, Engine 13 and Engine 1 all arrived within the minute. A paramedic from Squad 1 made contact with the trapped man and determined his condition to be life threatening.

On most "Pin-In" accidents, engine companies pull protection lines for the safety of the victim and first responders. Rescue tools such as airbags, hydraulic spreaders, etc., are then used to free trapped victims.

Due to the critical condition of this patient, firefighters opted to forgo standard procedure and worked together to lift the 3200 lb. vehicle off of the man.

As Firefighter Michael Held explained after the event, "We were putting a plan together and realized how many of us were there — we had two firefighters with the patient to help pull him out from beneath the car — and then eight of us lifted the car off of him. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked."

We pulled the man out onto a backboard and transferred him to an ambulance."

The patient was entered into the State Trauma System and transported to Emanuel Hospital with serious injuries.

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